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How Broadcast Television Could Become More Like Streaming After Pandemic

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No one could have expected just a few weeks to change almost every aspect of our lives as much as they've been changed recently. While most of us are self-isolating to try and stay healthy, it's also meant that many of the things we love to do have been shut down for the same reasons. Right now, we still have plenty of TV options available to help us stay entertained at home, but because pretty much every show that was filming had to close up shop, it might mean that, when life does get back to normal, broadcast networks like NBC and The CW could end up working a lot more like streamers such as Netflix and Hulu.

Everyone who pays attention to news on their favorite TV show (or, really, the news in general these days) will know that most series which were filming had to halt production to keep their casts and crews safe from our current pandemic. What you might not know, however, is that in the television industry this is the time of year is called "pilot season." This means that shows which were under consideration for network TV (a.k.a NBC, CBS, ABC, The CW and Fox) were in the process of filming a test episode that would decide whether or not it would get picked up to series and later air for viewers.

Unfortunately, when everything had to be shut down, this stoppage included the filming of roughly 55 broadcast pilots. According to Deadline, only one of these pilots manged to complete production, CBS' B Positive from sitcom mastermind Chuck Lorre, meaning that, in a rush to get new content on the air in what will now be a truncated time frame, we could see broadcast networks move away from the pilot model to adopt the straight-to-series model more frequently employed by streamers.

With so many pilots up in the air, broadcast networks have, apparently, now ordered at least one backup script for each of the shows which were being considered for series orders, so that, should those shows be given the greenlight, they can hit the ground running whenever production can restart. Word is that ABC, NBC, Fox and The CW have ordered second scripts for all drama and comedy pilots, ABC has done the same for only some of its projects (one of which is the Gina Torres vampire drama The Brides), while CBS is asking for a second script on most of its pilots.

As you might imagine, this is helpful because, with everyone staying away from each other, writing is one of the few parts of production that can be done either alone or through online-only workspaces. Several shows, including The CW’s Superman & Lois and the Walker, Texas Ranger reboot starring Jared Padalecki, already had straight-to-series orders and were planning to film pilots, but will now go right into series production when possible.

If the backup script trial is successful, it could mean that broadcast networks begin to leave the pilot stage behind in the future, in favor of straight-to-series orders for shows that seem like a good fit based on early scripts. This could be the case, especially, for dramas because it costs more to produce pilots for them and strong plots / mythologies that you can follow week after week tend to be the key to success, as opposed to the chemistry of the actors (like in sitcoms), which can be gaged well in pilots.

Right now, it looks like the networks would still like to be able to finish pilot season and get their pilots produced, but time will tell whether or not that will be possible as they race to fill out the TV schedule for the fall, and beyond.

Be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest, and, in the meantime, check out what's new right now via our midseason guide and Netflix schedule.

Adrienne Jones
Adrienne Jones

Bachelor Nation, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.