This year’s crop of CBS pilots includes The Silence of the Lambs sequel Clarice, a new take on The Equalizer and Patrick Dempsey-fronted political drama Ways & Means. But ViacomCBS boss Bob Bakish revealed that the company is spending less on pilots this year than last.
President and CEO Bakish, speaking on an investor call after posting its fourth-quarter financials, said, “I was with [David] Nevins last week and we were talking about CBS, and they’re actually spending less on pilots this year because they feel very good about where the network is and therefore are able to be more prudent.”
CBS has picked up six drama pilots and seven comedy pilots this year, including The Lincoln Lawyer straight-to-series order and Chuck Lorre-produced comedy pilot United States of Al, which was ordered off-cycle. That’s down from seven drama and nine comedy pilots last year. Reduced pilot volume has been an industry trend across broadcast as the networks grow more patient, sticking longer with modestly performing series because replacing them involves a big marketing expense and often leads to similar ratings.
Bakish also talked up growing opportunities for its studios including CBS Television Studios and Paramount Television Studios to produce for third-party networks. “We continue to have rampant demand in that business, yes, it consumes some cash, but it’s a different business, it’s fundamentally profitable, it’s low risk, we do build long-term asset value,” he added.