The traditional overall development deals have already been overshadowed by the so-called “showveralls” as TV studios opt more and more to sign overall deals with writer-producers who are tied to some of their key shows or are willing to staff. Those expensive development-centered deals are taking another blow in the early round of this development season as the broadcast networks have shrugged off projects from top TV writers. I’ve counted at least a half-dozen pitches by A-list showrunners, all under multi-million-dollar overall deals, that failed to sell over the past couple of weeks. The same thing has happened to a couple of feature writers. “The networks are being extra picky this year,” one top agent said. “The areas in which they choose to buy are narrower, and it feels like auspices are not as important.” This marks a stark departure from the proceedings a year ago. “Last year, you’d walk in the door with a name and you’d get a commitment on the spot,” an insider said. “It was more about being in business with those (writer-producers) than the actual idea.”
Heading into this development season, the networks, especially NBC and ABC, which overspent last year, have indicated that they will buy less. “It seems like it is indeed happening,” another agent noted. Signs that the broadcast networks, in search of fresher voices, were opting to go with less-experienced show creators began towards the end of the last development cycle when a staggering seven pilots, mostly on the comedy side, were picked up to series despite not having an experienced showrunner at the helm.