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Why are US broadcasters ordering fewer pilots?

Aligns with SVoD players which tend not to use pilots

The number of pilots ordered by US broadcasters has fallen by a third, according to Ampere Analysis.

The decrease is said to align with the strategies of SVoD players, which tend not to use pilots.

Ampere Analysis studied the five largest broadcasters in the US (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW) and found that the figure dropped from 106 pilots in 2015 to 73 in 2019.

Explaining this trend, the report pointed to the rise of ‘reboot culture’ (reliance on titles with established audiences) and the escalating cost of content.

Drama has hit a five-year low in terms of number of pilots commissioned; only six projects moved beyond the pilot stage in 2019.

Sci-fi was the worst performer in terms of conversion rates, and crime and thrillers the most successful.

Fred Black, Ampere Analysis analyst, said: “Our analysis from 2015 shows how increasingly concepts and scripts have leapfrogged the pilot phase and gone straight to series as broadcasters mimic the approach of the SVoD giants who often eschew the pilot phase altogether.

“In the last year we’ve seen a sea change, and the number of pilots created by the broadcasters has stabilised, so we’ll be watching this space clearly to see how the trend develops.”