TV pilot production drops 23% in Los Angeles

MUMBAI: Los Angeles' television pilot production during the February-May pilot season declined about 23 per cent in 2006, from 105 shows produced in 2005 to 81 this year. The drop in Los Angeles occurred as production in other regions grew significantly.

According to the findings of a survey done by FilmL.A., Inc., while the overall number of pilots produced for the season slipped three per cent (from 124 to 120 projects), L.A.'s share of the season total fell to 68 per cent, a 21 per cent drop from the 85 per cent share in 2005.

FilmL.A.'s second annual overview of pilot production was based on an industry-wide survey of production companies. The data shows that L.A.'s loss resulted in a gain for other locales, most notably New York City, which saw its pilot production share increase to 11 projects, from seven in 2005.

The Canadian provinces matched NYC's tally with 11 pilots (vs. five in 2005). Washington DC hosted three pilots, while Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas each had two pilots. Massachusetts, Illinois, Tennessee, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah split the remainder with one pilot each. In all, 39 of this year's 120 pilots were produced outside of Los Angeles; more than double the number recorded last year.

FilmL.A. president Steve MacDonald says the survey's results challenge the assumption that most pilots would be shot in Los Angeles. "Aggressive incentives from other jurisdictions have now succeeded in attracting almost a third of the season's pilot productions. Without a significant response, we're not likely to retain a majority share for much longer," said MacDonald.

As for the economic impact, MacDonald says the production shift this pilot season cost Los Angeles thousands of jobs and as much as $70 million in production spending. Approximately $216 million of this season's $370 million production pie was spent in Los Angeles. These figures are based on industry average pilot costs of $4 million for a one-hour drama, and $2 million for a half-hour comedy or other genre episode.

In addition to tracking pilot production, FilmL.A. also examined new series orders for the upcoming broadcast network season in order to track the production locations for these shows. The total number of pilots picked up as new and mid-season shows declined from 47 in 2005 to 39 this year, with 30 slated for the fall schedule and nine scheduled to debut mid-season. Twenty-six of the new shows will be produced in Los Angeles (13 one-hour, 13 half-hour), eight in New York (six one-hour, two half-hour), two one-hour shows in Canada and one one-hour show each in Texas, Rhode Island and a still undisclosed location. In the transition from pilot episode to picked up series, one show is moving from New York to Toronto, and another is moving from Los Angeles to New York.

The nine mid-season replacements will include five half-hour shows produced in Los Angeles, one one-hour show each in New York and Canada, and two shows for which locations have not yet been announced. All tolled, the 26 new shows slated for production in Los Angeles represent a 67 per cent share of the new show total, down from 74 per cent in 2005 (when L.A. garnered 35 of 47 new shows).

MacDonald says FilmL.A.'s overview of pilot and new show production provides further evidence that other locales are offering more than just tax breaks. "In addition to seeing other regions gain a bigger share of the pilot production pie, it's clear that many have developed the infrastructure to support new shows for the long haul."

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