Los Angeles still leads the nation in television pilot production, but a study released today by FilmL.A. reveals that the home of Hollywood took a double-digit hit this year to fall to its lowest total since 2009. However, with pilots down this most recent cycle in all the major production centers except tax-incentive lucrative Louisiana, a jump in straight-to-series orders by cable outlets and the streaming services might be part of the problem.
With 68 pilots made in the greater L.A. area during the 2016-2017 cycle, the town saw a 14% decline from last year to hit an eight-year overall low, according to the nonprofit film permit office. Including the 22 dramas and 46 comedies made here, there were 173 pilots produced nationwide for broadcast, cable and digital — a total that includes Netflix, Amazon and Hulu among others.
Even with New York’s decline from the last cycle, L.A. fared better in the overall downward pilot spiral than Vancouver and the great state of Georgia. The Canadian West Coast city and home to almost every CW show and the likes of Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle took a 16% drop and the tax credit friendly Peach State was down a hard 20% from the 2015-2016 cycle.
As the FilmL.A. chart (above) makes clear, that nationwide number is also down 14% from last year. Perhaps even more telling, this past year marked the first time since the 2012-2013 cycle that the total number of pilots produced was less than 200. In terms of total share of all pilots produced, L.A. was even with the 2015-2016 cycle with 39% — down 68% from the city’s all-time peak in 2006-2007, when 82% of all pilots were made in Tinseltown.
However, looking at the new normal of TV production, this latest cycle also saw a 14% increase overall in the number of straight-to-series orders compared with 2015-2016. Between the cablers and streaming services, that’s 65 straight-to-series orders, over the previous high of 57 in the last cycle. Put in a larger perspective, there were eight total straight-to-series orders in the 2010-2011 cycle, aka before Netflix jumped into the original programming game. Today, shows that received straight-to-series orders make up 38% of all pilots – a huge rise from the 4% that made up that total just six years ago.
The latest cycle saw a 1% decline in the so-called “non-traditional” category, from the 19% it made up last year. Netflix made 14 pilots in the 2016-2017 cycle, Amazon seven, DirecTV five, Hulu with four and new kid on the block CBS All Access had two.
Breaking down the overall Drama and Comedy categories a bit, the former stayed even for L.A. in terms of share of all pilots produced, while the latter actually increased 3% over 2015-2016. Focusing on the bottom line, about $303 million was spent on pilots in L.A. during the 2016-2017 cycle, which makes up 30% of all pilot spending nationwide, an increase of 1% over the last cycle. That $303 million is also up $6 million from 2015-2016.
Today’s news comes as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will be heading to the NBCUniversal set of the revived Will And Grace this afternoon to give a high five to the pilotless production being based in the City of Angels. That’s a point worth noting because, as tax credits in California are bringing more relocating shows to the state and the L.A. area like NBC’s resurrected Timeless, FX’s Legion and Showtime’s The Affair, the proliferation of small-screen efforts in this era of Peak TV also has seen more already packed programming schedules.
Of the approximately 426 “live action scripted series,” as FilmLA calls them, made in America for the upcoming TV season, 173 are produced in California – outstripping the Golden State’s top five competitors put together.
So, adjustments and all, the lights are still staying on bright in Tinseltown.
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