At the Television Critics Association press tour this week, Fox's chairman rocked the boat by declaring that his network is doing away with tradition of pilot season. But is broadcast TV really on the precipice of change?
Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly announced proudly on Monday that Fox will "bypass" pilot season—the yearly process by which networks order new shows—in favor of a model more akin to the cable system, whereby new series are developed year round. "I think these shows in this day and age, we can't be in the one-size-fits-all business," he said, per The Hollywood Reporter. "There shouldn't be a set order pattern. There shouldn't be a set time when we launch things. The audience doesn't watch midseason and fall season. They don't know about pilot season. They just want to watch a great show at the right time of year that's marketed to them, that they can be aware of. There are so many things, thousands of original shows competing for their attention right now, we just can't do it all at once." Reilly's idea isn't to look at a clump of single episodes, but rather entire shows, Lacey Rose and Lesley Goldberg explained, picking up series orders—like, say Gracepoint, the U.S. version of Broadchurch—throughout the year.
It's clear to any television fan that while there is still plenty to watch on broadcast television, cable is where people go for quality, and doing away with pilot season—a period where a lot of ideas are dealt with in a very short amount of time—is helpful. As Tim Goodman wrote in THR: "But as far as a revolution in the pilot process—dismantling it—the ultimate benefit is time. And time means patience, which can translate to better quality." Reilly quoted Damon Lindelof, the Lost creator who has headed over to HBO for his The Leftovers, saying: "When you slow down the conveyor belt, the quality goes up."