ABC is ramping up its efforts to move its development process off-cycle and has rebranded it a “second cycle.”
ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke told Deadline that it is currently budgeted for around 16 comedy and drama pilots but that this total would include pilots orders picked up outside of the traditional January to March window.
Burke took over from Channing Dungey in December 2018, leading to her having to jump straight into the process last season. “We’re starting earlier than we did last year with some of these pick-ups. We were late last year and I don’t want to make pilots just to fill slots. We’re calling it a second cycle of development. Shows need time; we’re going to take a couple and take time and do a second cycle,” she said.
Former Freeform boss Burke has credited Simran Sethi, the former Netflix international exec who joined last year as EVP, Development and Content Strategy, with spearheading the “second cycle” effort. Burke and Sethi previously worked together at NBC and the Disney-owned youth-skewing cable network.
Burke, who also worked in cable, said it wanted to stay open to attract the best ideas and talent and that not developing all year round was “dumb” and “bananas”. “Broadcast networks traditionally close and we’re going to stay open all year round,” she added.
It comes a day after Fox president of entertainment Michael Thorn told Deadline that it wanted to move completely off-cycle. “We’re going to order a couple to several drama and comedy pilots in January but we’re also doing off-cycle. We’re not going to do all of our ordering in January; our hope is to be completely off-cycle,” he said. “We’re looking at ordering things when they’re ready and backing off the traditional cycle and looking to set series up for success.”
It’s not the first time the pair have discussed breaking the traditional system.
At the HRTS The Network Chiefs lunch in June, both Burke and Thorn talked about “busting the pilot cycle”.
Burke said the current system doesn’t still serve the broadcast universe. “The sheer fierce competition for shared talent that we go through is not good for the talent. I don’t think were serving the creators well or serving the audience well. It’s got even more contracted from what I remember a decade or so. We’re trying to break out of it; we’re making a bunch of pilots this summer as we always do, but I would love to bust the cycle.”
Thorn added that the newly single broadcast network wanted to be “off-cycle as quickly as possible”. “If we could design the way it would work, the bulk of our development and series would be ordered off cycle and pilot season, which I don’t think will ever go away, will complement it, instead of the reverse.”