Pilot Season — Is It Out of Sync With Viewer Habits?

One of the things that I notice a lot when talking to business people is businesses still trying to do things that worked over a decade ago, or even longer, and then lamenting that they aren’t getting the results they expected. Well duh. Times have changed.

So I think its great to see companies willing to make changes to get in sync with today’s reality. Earlier this year, Fox jumped into the ring by deciding not to participate in pilot season.

The announcement was a long time coming, and marks an attempt to align the way television is made with the way it is increasingly consumed.

Fox Ends Pilot Season. What took So Long? | Bloomberg Businessweek

Now it seems as if Fox came to this realization by seeing what was going on in the cable world. So its hard to say whether Fox is really in tune with its viewers or just following in the footsteps of the success of its non-network competitors.

As with everything else in TV these days, the change was driven in part by cable. Cable networks have for years been experimenting with shorter seasons—13 episodes of Breaking Bad instead of 22—or miniseries, and with launching shows in the spring or summer rather in the fall. And pay channels like HBO (TWX) didn’t have advertisers they had to invite to an annual conference, which gave them more flexibility in when they could do things.

Fox Ends Pilot Season. What took So Long? | Bloomberg Businessweek

And some believe that Fox will go back to pilots next season and admit that there are risks associated with the decision.

Reilly’s plan is not without risk, with at least one studio chief predicting he would return to pilots next year if some of his straight-to-series bets “blow up on him.” Another notes he’ll be less likely to take fare to Fox unless he is sure it’s a Fox-type show. Still others worry what this could mean for up-and-coming or even midlevel writer-producers, given that straight-to-series offers tend to favor more experienced developers a la Bruno Heller (Fox’s Gotham) and Hart Hanson (Backstrom). After all, Greenblatt acknowledges he wouldn’t have made a series gamble on The Blacklist, fall’s biggest new hit, because it came from an inexperienced writer in Jon Bokenkamp. Said Greenblatt, “It probably would never have seen the air had we not made a pilot.”

Kevin Reilly’s War on TV Pilot Season: Will Other Networks Follow Fox? (Analysis) | The Hollywood Reporter

Still, it’s refreshing to see Fox giving it a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.