How Many TV Pilots Get Ordered Each Season

how hollywood works: TV

pilot

In television, you put A LOT of hard work into your pilots. You:

  • Create the pitch

  • Do countless rewrites

  • Cast it

  • Shoot it

  • Edit it

All that work… and chances are your pilot won’t get picked up to series.

It’s like spending months getting ready for a trip — Lonely Planet book, bags packed, passport renewed — and the airports get shut down. Indefinitely.

But here’s the good news: because the odds of getting a series order are so low, this means that, as Noah Hawley puts it, “failure” in television carries no stigma. Which is great, since if you’re working in television you’re going to fail again, and again, and again.

Odds Are Your Pilot Isn’t Getting Ordered

Restaurants carry a reputation of being a risky business, with the running assumption that half fail after the first year, and of the remaining half another half will fail in the next five years.

Television is worse: approximately 90% of shows fail.

90-failure

Makes you want to go into the restaurant business, right?

Here are the averages broken down:

  • 500: The average number of pitches heard by network and studio execs each summer

  • 70: The average number of pilot scripts ordered each fall

  • 20: The average number of pilot episodes ordered each January

  • 5 – 12: The average number of series each network orders each May

As you can imagine, the vast majority of projects end up as dead pitches. Or, more heart-wrenching, dead pilots.

These numbers are so low for two reasons. First, networks only have a few time slots available in their programming schedule for new series.

ERIK PALLADINO, SAMANTHA LOGAN, TERRY O'QUINN, RACHAEL TAYLOR, VANESSA WILLIAMS, DAVE ANNABLE, MERCEDES MASOHN, ROBERT BUCKLEY, HELENA MATTSSON

Second, even if your pilot does get picked up for series, you face an uphill battle of finishing out the first season without getting cancelled early. And if you make it through the first season then it’s a fight again for a renewal for season two, and then again for season three, and so on.

So What Does Get on the Air?

Every year a lucky few pilots manage to beat the odds and are picked up in May.

New TV Shows 2013 to Check Out This Fall

According to THR, a grand total of 95 pilots were ordered by the networks in 2014, with an increasing number of those being straight-to-series commitments.

Here are those stats to give you an idea of what makes it on air:

Total:

  • Dramas: 45 (52 in 2013, down 7)

  • Comedies: 50 (48 in 2013, up 2)

  • Single-cam: 32 (34 in 2013, down 2)

  • Multicam: 17 (14, 2013, up 3)

  • Hybrid: 1 (none in 2013, up 1)

  • Series orders 2013: 47

ABC:

  • Total: 27 (25 in 2013, up 2)

  • Dramas: 13 (13 in 2013, even)

  • Comedies: 14 (12 in 2013, up 2)

  • Single-cam: 10 (10 in 2013, even)

  • Multicam: 3 (2 in 2013, up 1)

  • Series orders/commitments: 3 ( ASTRONAUT WIVE’S CLUB, SECRETS & LIES,  untitled David O. Russell drama)

  • Series orders 2013: 12 (7 dramas, 5 comedies)

NBC:

  • Total: 27 (28 in 2013, down 1)

  • Dramas: 9 (12 in 2013, down 3)

  • Comedies: 18 (16 in 2013, up 2)

  • Single-cam: 14 (11 in 2013, up 3)

  • Multicam: 4 (5 in 2013, down 1)

  • Series orders/commitments: 4 (EMERALD CITY, MR. ROBINSON, WORKING THE ENGELS, untitled Tina Fey-Ellie Kemper comedy)

  • Series orders 2013: 13 (7 dramas, 6 comedies)

CBS:

  • Total: 19 (23 in 2013, down 4)

  • Dramas: 9 (11 in 2013, down 2)

  • Comedies: 10 (12 in 2013, down 2)

  • Single-cam: 3 (7 in 2013, down 4)

  • Multicam: 6 (5 in 2013, up 1)

  • Hybrid: 1 (none in 2013, up 1)

  • Series orders/commitments: 1 (BATTLE CREEK)

  • Series orders 2013: 8 (5 comedies, 3 dramas)

Fox:

  • Total: 16 (16 in 2013, even)

  • Dramas: 8 (8 in 2013, even)

  • Comedies: 8 (8 in 2013, even)

  • Single-cam: 5 (7 in 2013, down 2)

  • Multicam: 3 (1 in 2013, up 2)

  • Series orders/commitments: 7 (THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, CABOT COLLEGE, MULANEY, WEIRD LONERS, BACKSTROM, GOTHAM, HIEROGLYPH)

  • Series orders 2013: 9 (5 comedies, 4 dramas)

The CW:

  • Total: 6 (8 in 2013, down 2)

  • Dramas: 6 (8 in 2013, down 2)

  • Series orders 2013: 5 (all dramas)

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment