Is the traditional TV model on the way out or already dead, and how will the shifting landscape change the production of original content? Historically pilot season started sometime in January or February and went through early May for the upfront presentations, but a convergence of factors is rapidly changing the flow of production for original programming.
Many networks are forging new routes for their pilots. According to Variety a number of forces are taking effect, among them:
- Heightened competition for top projects from cable
- Cheaper ways to produce series
- A push to offer original programming on a year-round basis
Experiments abound as new models are forged.
Many companies are exploring ways to offer advertising clients new ways to sync up with audiences and content production. Relativity Digital Studios (RDS), a company associated with Washington incentive film 21 & Over, is working to create branded content as well as non-branded original content for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Their entrepreneurial spirit offers a great deal of flexibility to creators, consumers and clients alike, allowing RDS to “make compelling content” and then “find the best home for it.”
At Amazon Studios pilot season has been entrusted to viewers (at least in part), by making all 10 of their original series available online for free. The episodes will be rated to help decide what gets further developed and what does not. Netflix is also experiencing insane growth in subscriber rates thanks to the success of their original programming and increased licensing of existing content. In a letter to their shareholders, Netflix declared they were benefiting from a surge of Internet video growth, and acknowledged that other online services were as well, including YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and others.
At Fox they are adopting a model more akin to cable development; the network will no longer participate in the traditional pilot season and upfronts, instead focusing on developing shows throughout the year. This signifies large changes for clients as well as writers, actors, and agents. Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly, who feels the old system was “antiquated” and suffered a low success rate in terms of show development, predicts that this shift will result in fewer pilots, but more opportunities for new, better-developed series to actually get on, and stay on, the air.
What does the future hold?
These transitions have been a long time in the making, as content producers and networks scramble to cast off an out-of-date system in order to keep up with the shifting ways that audiences consume content. As a result, advertising clients will have more options to reach audiences, audiences to find content, and around and around we go.
Here in Washington, the film industry is hungry to return to regular series work and Washington Filmworks has worked to bring more of this type of production to the state, but it has to be the right fit with our current incentive programs. These shifts are encouraging, as networks, studios, and brands begin to implement changes that recognize viewers can be reached through all kinds of delivery platforms, year-round.