Nets nix advertiser pilot previews

The three networks and Fox Broadcasting Co. are planning to dispense with formal pilot presentations to advertisers this year, apparently seeing little upside in the practice.

Network officials say they will hold small group meetings with selected advertisers to discuss development plans but will forego the sort of dog-and-pony shows they’ve staged in the past.

In recent years each of the networks have allocated time in March, once most of their pilots are ordered, to make glitzy presentations to advertisers in New York and Los Angeles. The webs have traditionally used the forum to try to spur excitement about the coming TV season, trotting out hot young stand-up comics and established stars to say how eager they are to go to bat for the network.

After reflection, however, the webs have come to the uniform conclusion that there’s scant benefit to be gained from that approach, either with advertisers or the press.

Officials note that they’ve seen only the scripts, not the pilots, when they make the presentation, so they end up touting shows that may be lousy and never see the light of day.

In addition, network execs maintain that the effort put into mounting the presentation serves as a distraction from the actual development process; moreover,the pressure to have big names to puff up those presentations creates unnecessary urgency to conclude deals simply so they can be done prior to the event.

Advertisers and the press have also fallen into the habit of labeling network development crops as “safe” or “boring” based on concepts unveiled during these presentations, without seeing the finished product.

With more than 100 pilots usually punched up by the four services, projects invariably sound similar when reduced to one-sentence descriptions. As one former network exec is fond of pointing out, talking about a show where the father is a doctor, the mother is a lawyer and they have five kids doesn’t sound impressive, until you tell people it’s “The Cosby Show.”

Elsewhere on the pilot front, ABC Prods. is said to be developing another pilot for Fox, having previously sold the weblet the drama series “Class of ’96” last season. The new project, “Beat Police,” is from producer Gordon Greisman.

The Alphabet network’s in-house arm, behind two previously reported dramas, also is said to have a pair of sitcoms in the works — one under the working title “Not My Three Sons,” from producer Matthew Carlson (“Camp Wilder”), the other an unnamed project from Peter Tolan, who exec produced ABCP’s Joanna Kerns pilot “The Long Game” last season.

The networks announce their fall schedules in May and will still provide the usual new-series fanfare at that time.

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