Pilot Season: The Never Ending Story

There was a time in Hollywood when TV shows were limited and only a few networks controlled them. Hopeful TV actors would train and prepare all year for the big audition event entitled “Pilot Season.” I would say that it’s like the NFL draft for television actors. It usually starts around February and goes through the spring. Its a very short window filled with auditions for new potential shows that could make it to a network.

In football terms, it was like a huge tryout for different teams and if you weren’t cast, then you’d have to wait till next year. Many actors live and die for pilot season, hoping they will get cast in something and make enough money to make it to the next pilot season. In other science terms, it would be like if the Earth was always -20 degrees cold outside all year, but for one week its gets up to 80 degrees, so everyone tries to get in as much heat as they can. That describes pilot season, and also the city of Chicago I believe.

With that being said, and jumping to 2019, the idea of a pilot season is slowly turning into a thing of the past.

With all the streaming networks and social media platforms creating new constant flowing content, pilots are being made year-round which for an actor is amazing. The online networks have created a ton of jobs for the entertainment industry all around, granted, some say that the pay isn’t network level.

But hey you’re on a TV show, just be happy that you made it.

Streamers have definitely broken apart the monopoly that network TV had in the industry for decades. Many writers have even shifted gears to work on streamer shows since they are allowed more creative freedom than a network. Some writers say it’s nice to write a streamer show because they aren’t at the mercy of a sponsor. Network TV relies on sponsors to keep their shows afloat and sometimes the issue can be that the sponsor thinks they are also a writer which can really kill a show.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. You just wrote a hit TV pilot and the networks love it.

So now you’re faced with a dilemma. Do I stick to my script and potentially lose the $10 million sponsor money or do I ruin my script.

A soda company wants to sponsor the show for $10 million dollars, so you agree to write in your show now that the actors drink this product. Sounds simple at first, but then the sponsor thinks that since they are giving you all that money they should have more input on your show. Now the soda company likes the idea of changing your lead character into a robot dog.

You’d be surprised how much this kind of thing happens behind the scenes. But with streamers, at least they get most of their money from subscribers, so not much to do with sponsors. 

In the end, the streamers are only growing and the shows with it. No longer does an audience member have to wait till the fall to check out new TV shows, because they come out every month. With this new, all year, pilot season comes more roles with more unknown actors that will finally get a chance to be in the spotlight. Some people try to complain that there is almost too much content to watch. Which now is technically true. It would be near impossible to try and watch every TV show now coming out. But that gives us variety and diversity, we get to try new things. It’s like being at a breakfast buffet every morning and usually having the same food options. Wouldn’t it be great though, if you woke up one morning and instead of eggs, they had Netflix’s “Glow,” or they replaced the eggs with Amazon’s “The Boys,” and french toast is now topped with Hulu’s “A Handmaids Tale.”

Variety is the spice of life.

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