Several months ago, when Fox’s Chairman of Entertainment Kevin Reilly proclaimed an end to pilot season, international buyers quietly expressed their discomfort at the prospect. But now, with the Screenings underway the concerns that several of those buyers had at the time have now disappeared, so what’s changed?
The initial concern was firmly connected to the LA Screenings. Fox, like almost every other broadcast network, takes in projects from every major studio, however, the vast majority of their line up still comes from sister-studio 20th Century Fox Television.
Initially, some in the industry read the proclamation from Reilly as “no more pilots” and as such buyers were concerned that when they hit LA there’d be little or nothing for them to get a taste of at the Screenings from Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution.
The truth is that Fox’s abandonment of pilot season, was not a swearing off of pilots, which the network is still producing (such as Empire, Red Band Society etc), but more of a realisation on the part of the network that if there were to program year round, and attract the best talent, they would need to be developing outside of the traditional pilot season.
That said, Fox has been aggressive with straight-to-series order for high-profile projects, which caused equal concern for buyers over, as noted above, the likelihood that there would be nothing to screen. But all of the network ensured that all of their straight to series projects, such as Mulaney and Hieroglyph, produced at least a first episode, ensuring Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution had something to screen for buyers this week in LA.
That has had the effect of eliminating any concerns international buyers had relating to new entries for Fox, for this season anyway. “This is the first season under the new model”, one buyer told me. “And not a lot has changed so far. They’re still doing pilots. The test will be next year, especially with a non stop development cycle.”