FOX Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly had some big news to reveal for the 2014 TCA press tour panel — a cartoon tombston reading “RIP pilot season, 1986-2013.” A funny gag, to be sure, but it was also an announcement by FOX.
“We are officially this year going to be bypassing pilot season,” says Reilly. “The broadcasting development and scheduling system was built for a different era. … It’s highly inefficient.”
What he means is that the sheer volume of the shows and the time constraints put on the networks make pilot season increasingly difficult, especially in the face of more offerings by cable and premium channels that are not held to the same time standards, which helps those channels fine-tune their fledgling shows.
“Every first-season show, whether it’s great or whether it’s in trouble, needs course-correction, needs more cooking,” says Reilly, adding that this new direction for FOX will give the network better focus and let them to have shorter orders for dramas, which Reilly thinks is a creative bonus.
“It’s better for the audience’s focus and attention to do shorter orders. … Many dramas are just better creatively on a shorter-order pattern,” says Reilly.
The shorter orders mean that FOX will be able to be far ahead in production, with entire seasons in the can when the show begins airing. Reilly says that having possible replacements ready to go won’t mean the network will be quicker to cancel shows — in fact, it’ll be just the opposite.
“Part of network management is because you’re only a few weeks out ahead of an order, once you pull the plug on something, you can save money on it,” says Reilly. “We’re doing the opposite. We’re going to end up owning 13, 15 weeks of a series and that series has to be burned off or we’re going to have a big financial headache.”