TV Pilots Spent $298 Million in L.A. During Yearly Development Cycle

Downtown Los Angeles Skyline Silhouette - H 2014
AP Images

Downtown Los Angeles Skyline Silhouette - H 2014

FilmL.A. reports that during the recent pilot production season, the L.A. area attracted 45 percent of all network, broadcast and digital pilot production.

Ninety-one TV pilots — 21 dramas and 70 comedies — were filmed in the Los Angeles region during the 2015 pilot season, FilmL.A. announced Tuesday as it issued its annual report on pilot production.

While L.A. saw its overall slice of the pilot-production pie fall below 50 percent for the second year in a row, it still attracted far more pilots than competitors like New York, Vancouver, Toronto and Atlanta.

Those 91 pilots represented the fourth-largest tally in L.A. history, though that was still 10 fewer projects than were shot in L.A. during the peak year of 2004-05.

Los Angeles attracted 45 percent of all 202 pilots mounted during the most recent pilot season, but it still remained the top location for pilots. Of the 111 other pilots filmed outside of L.A.  — 90 of which were one-hour dramas — 25 were shot in New York, 16 in Vancouver, nine each in Atlanta and Toronto, and eight in Louisiana.

In terms of economic impact, FilmL.A., which oversees permits for on-location filming in the L.A. area, estimated that approximately $298 million was spent on television pilot production in Los Angeles during the 2014-15 development cycle, a slight increase over the $290 million spent in L.A. during the previous cycle. It also reported that pilot production costs have risen to about $2 million for a comedy pilot and $6 million to $9 million for a drama pilot.

Noting the changing media landscape, the report used the word “pilot” to refer to scripted programs, shot both on location and on soundstages, intended for primetime, whether on broadcast or cable. It also included original web series, but not animated pilot productions. For shows that got a straight-to-series rather than a simple pilot order, the study included the first episode of straight-to-series productions.

For the first time, in this year’s report, FilmL.A. broke out the number of pilots for digital series airing on outlets like Amazon and Netflix — they previously had been grouped together with cable projects. During the 2011-12 cycle, just one pilot was produced for a digital network. For the 2014-15 cycle, the study found 26 pilots produced for digital networks: 13 for Amazon, 10 for Netflix, two for Hulu and one for PlayStation Network.

Of the 176 nondigital pilots, 85 were for cable and 91 for network.

Surveying genres, the studio found that the L.A. region attracted 19 percent of all drama pilots, up from a 17 percent share in the previous cycle. That meant, though, that for every lucrative drama pilot shot in L.A., four others were shot elsewhere, generally in locales that offered the lure of tax incentives.

L.A. had a much stronger hold on comedy pilots, commanding a 77 percent share, up slightly from 76 percent in the previous cycle, and, the report observed, aside from New York, other regions have not been as effective in attracting comedy pilots through the use of tax incentives.