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For the second pilot season in a row, a lack of outright cancellations has kept overall volume on par with 2017.
Collectively, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW ordered 76 new dramas and comedies — including a handful of straight-to-series pickups — as they look to reboots, light-hearted procedurals and multicamera comedies to cut through the clutter. In the months to come, the broadcasters will compete with cable and streaming outlets for top stars as they hope to find the next This Is Us or The Good Doctor for the 2018-19 season.
Here’s the big-picture snapshot:
Grand total: 76 (74 in 2017)
Dramas: 45 (41 in 2017)
Comedies: 30 (33 in 2017)
Single-cam: 14 (23 in 2017)
Multicam: 16 (7 in 2017)
Here’s a closer look at Pilot Season 2018 by the numbers, including how all the studios fared. But first, here’s a look at how overall volume compares with the past few years:
Network 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
ABC 23 24 24 25 27 24 24
CBS 18 17 17 18 19 23 16
Fox 11 13 19 15 16 16 16
The CW 9 6 6 4 6 8 8
NBC 15 14 22 23 27 27 23
Totals 76 74 88 85 95 98 87
ABC 23 (24 in 2017)
With a comedy lineup that includes what could be the final seasons of Modern Family and The Goldbergs, ABC’s total volume was off only slightly from last season. Dramas remained even year-over-year as the network will have a TGIT hole to fill without Scandal and any new Shonda Rhimes-created dramas. (And that’s on top of saying farewell to Once Upon a Time.) The network may also have some Fox fare to select from if the proposed $52 billion merger brings studio 20th Century Fox TV and other assets into the Disney-ABC family. This season, ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey is again looking for lighter dramas and its tried and true female-skewing fare.
Big swing(s): The network has two straight-to-series orders: the Castle-like The Rookie, starring Nathan Fillion, and Take Two. (ABC’s untitled Kenya Barris family comedy has reverted to a pilot after Alec Baldwin balked at starring in the multicam.)
Dramas: 13 (13 in 2017)
Comedies: 10 (11 in 2017)
Single-cam: 7 (9 in 2017)
Multicam: 3 (2 in 2017)
CBS 18 (17 in 2017)
In their first pilot season overseeing development, CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl and his senior exec vp programming Thom Sherman are looking to right the ship with a wave of female-created and female-fronted comedies and dramas while also making inclusive casting a high priority. The network’s overall volume is up slightly year-over-year. Creatively, reboots are prominently featured, with Cagney and Lacey, L.A. Confidential and Magnum P.I. on the drama side, and a straight-to-series pickup of a Murphy Brown revival on the comedy side. On the half-hour front, all of CBS’ pilots are multicamera (two of them hybrids) as the format is poised to see a resurgence across all of the Big Four networks.
Big swing: For the first time in years, Dick Wolf has a new show in the works at a network outside of NBC as CBS went straight-to-series on procedural FBI.
Dramas: 10 (9 in 2017)
Comedies: 8 (8 in 2017)
Single-cam: 0 (2 in 2017)
Multicam: 8* (3 in 2017)
Fox 11 (13 in 2017)
If the proposed Disney deal goes through, the Dana Walden- and Gary Newman-run network and studio would be split, with the latter becoming a Disney property. That creates a slew of questions, including if Walden and Newman would remain at the network or move to Disney and stay with the studio (or possibly score new posts under the Disney umbrella). Still, it seems like business as usual at the network with overall volume down slightly due to Fox’s window for originals getting even smaller after scoring rights to Thursday Night Football. The biggest difference thematically is Fox’s bet on multicamera comedies, with two orders, after passing altogether on the format last season.
Big swing: Cool Kids, a multicamera comedy developed off-cycle, brings comedy icon Vicki Lawrence back to the small screen.
Dramas: 5 (7 in 2017)
Comedies: 6 (6 in 2017)
Single-cam: 4 (6 in 2017)
Multicam: 2 (0 in 2017)
NBC 15 (14 in 2017)
With This Is Us, a roster of Dick Wolf shows and The Voice all taking up valuable real estate, and with Will and Grace and The Good Place already renewed, NBC’s orders were again on par with last season. Creatively, NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt is looking for family fare on the comedy side — with a big bet on multicams — and female-driven procedurals.
Big swing: The Gilded Age, from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, was picked up to series with a 10-episode order after toiling away in development since 2012. With casting yet to begin, the 1880s-set drama will premiere in 2019.
Dramas: 8 (6 in 2017)
Comedies: 7 (8 in 2017)
Single-cam: 3 (6 in 2017)
Multicam: 4 (2 in 2017)
The CW 9 (6 in 2017)
The younger-skewing, Mark Pedowitz-run network set a record with nine pilot pickups, including the Supernatural backdoor pilot. The pickups are again equally divided between co-owners Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios, though the former has one more this season with Wayward Sisters. Thematically, the network is again betting big on genre fare with reboots of Charmed and Roswell in the works, among others.
The broadcast networks continued to focus on ownership this pilot season, buying largely from their vertically aligned studios. That helped CBS Television Studios repeat again this year. Of CBS Television Studios’ 20 overall projects, only four are set up at corporate sibling The CW, with nine overall co-productions. ABC Studios held on to its second-place ranking (with only three co-productions overall). Warner Bros. Television moved from fourth to third this season on the strength of The CW’s big year and its willingness to do co-productions with CBS. 20th Century Fox Television dropped again this year from third to fourth as Fox had fewer needs and outside sales were virtually nonexistent. Universal Television repeated its fifth-place showing, though the studio has business everywhere but Fox. And cable-focused indie Sony Pictures Television Studios, under new leadership this season, remained in sixth with five sales, down the most year-over-year of all the studios.
CBS Television Studios: 20 (17 in 2017)
The David Stapf-led studio took an ownership cut from outside studios in order to get a pickup either at CBS or on a different network. After striking an impressive nine co-productions this season, CBSTVS has business with everyone save 20th TV. In a continued sign of the times, independent studio Warner Bros. Television gave up a piece of the pie on two of its five pilots at CBS, though it retained full ownership on a pair of Greg Berlanti dramas and the Murphy Brown reboot.
Rank last season: First
ABC Studios: 19 (15 in 2017)
The Patrick Moran-led, Disney-owned studio has business with everyone save for CBS and Sony, and owns nearly all of ABC’s 22 pilots. Of the studio’s 19 overall sales, three are co-productions (one with 20th TV and two with Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment) and two are straight-to-series: The Rookie and Take Two. Also noteworthy is Kenya Barris-produced comedy Bright Futures moving to NBC after ABC passed.
Rank last season: Second
Warner Bros. Television: 14 (12 in 2017)
Peter Roth’s willingness to change with the times and share in ownership helped the studio improve its haul from last year (and move up a slot in the overall rankings). The independent studio has sales everywhere save for Fox (where it has Gotham, Lucifer and Lethal Weapon). Of the studio’s 14 overall sales, two are co-productions with CBSTVS. Helping the studio was The CW’s record year, with five of the younger-skewing network’s nine orders coming from WBTV.
Rank last season: Fourth
20th Century Fox Television: 13 (15 in 2017)
The bulk of Walden and Newman’s studio sales continue to be to network counterpart Fox, even as the Disney deal awaits regulatory approval. Should the deal close, the network would own next to none of its new shows, should any of Fox’s 11 pilots move forward. Of the studio’s 13 sales, only one is fully owned at an outside network (ABC).
Rank last season: Third
Universal Television: 13 (11 in 2017)
In her second year on the job, Pearlena Igbokwe’s marching orders continue to be the same: to be the main supplier for corporate sibling NBC. Of UTV’s sales, more than two-thirds of them were at NBC, with co-productions accounting for sales to ABC (one) and CBS (two).
Rank last season: Fifth
Sony Pictures Television Studios: 5 (9 in 2017)
In their first pilot season after taking over for Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, SPTS co-presidents Jeff Frost, Chris Parnell and Jason Clodfelter faced an uphill battle as the only truly independent studio without any network affiliation. The studio had the largest decline in volume. What’s more, Sony gave up partial ownership on all three of its pickups at CBS. (Though it owns both sales at NBC.) What’s surprising is that Sony doesn’t have a single sale to ABC after supplying the network with this season’s biggest hit in The Good Doctor.
Rank last season: Sixth
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Robert De Niro