Los Angeles Sees 34% Decline in TV Drama Production since 2007

Los Angeles Darkening Outlook as Home
Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Variety

Los Angeles is in grave danger of losing even more TV drama series because of the limits of the state’s production tax incentive program, a new report asserts.

FilmL.A. disclosed Wednesday that Hollywood has seen a 34% decline in TV dramas shot in Los Angeles since 2006-07 from 73 to 48 currently. Additionally, 13 of those 48 one-hour shows are receiving the state’s production tax credit — which did not exist in 2007.

“In fact, were it not for the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program, 2013/14 would have been the worst year on record since 2006 for total television dramas produced in the state,” the report said. “Since 2006/07, production has fallen more than 52 percent to just 35 drama series this year.”

Adding to the report’s gloomy outlook is the fact that since 2012, 29 one-hour dramas based in California have completed their series runs, including “90210,” “Bunheads,” “Southland,” “True Blood,” “Dexter,” “Mad Men,” “Glee,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “Parenthood.”

“The economic impact of these 29 dramas is/was enormous, and when not replaced by
other locally‐made shows, the sting of their disappearance is keenly felt,” the report said.
“Since the average cost per‐episode for a typical one‐hour drama can range from $2.2‐$5.5 million (or more) for a season that consists of 10‐22 episodes, FilmL.A. estimates that the loss of these series is worth as much as $1.2 billion annually in direct production spending.”

The report noted that six of the series — “Bunheads,” “Torchwood,” “Jane by Design,” “The Wedding Band,” two seasons of “Body of Proof” and five seasons of “Justified” — had received the incentive and generated $398 million in spending in California with 1,198 cast members, 1,058 crew and 24,419 extras.

“Unfortunately, California has been unable to replace these completed dramas with new series fast enough to fill the void,” the report said.

FilmL.A. issued the report as a follow-up to its second-quarter statistics showing a 33% jump in TV production due to a shift in sceheduling with more early summer premieres. The agency reported in June that Los Angeles had lost its leadership in one-hour drama pilot production for the 2013-14 development cycle, which saw New York retain 24 drama projects — a convincing lead over the 19 drama projects retained in Los Angeles.

Legislation to expand California’s production incentive program has been approved by the State Assembly and the State Senate’s governance and finance committee. California’s current program is smaller — at $100 million in tax credits annually — and narrower than those in competing jurisdictions.

The report was issued in conjunction with Variety’s TV Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel in Century City, which included a panel led by FilmL.A. president Paul Audley with a pair of prominent showrunners — Scott Rosenbaum of “Gang Related” and Erica Messer of “Criminal Minds.” The duo touted the multiple benefits of shooting in Los Angeles, even without incentives.

“You have people who are just good at what they do,” Rosenbaum said.

“If you need a crane in an hour in L.A., there are four places you can go,” Messer said. “The infrastructure in L.A. is built for this.”

Messer added that the strength of the infrastructure in Los Angeles makes filming here more cost-effective. “It makes for a happy cast and crew,” she said.

(Pictured: Scott Rosenbaum, Erica Messer)

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  1. Rena Moretti says:

    Interesting… Someone at Variety seems to have a problem with my pointing out the drop in production was caused by the drop in quality.

    I thought the drop in quality was obvious to all…

  2. Rena Moretti says:

    Adrian H.: Both our posts seem to have disappeared so I’ll just make a new one, but you should remember that it’s not just the number of shows, but also the number of episodes. When you make two shows with 10 episodes, it doesn’t even match 22 episodes of one show.

    With the multiplication of reality shows, game shows, news shows, competition shows, foreign show pick-ups and the wholesale cancellation of Saturdays (and the incredible number of re-runs, even during premiere week) the major networks are producing a LOT less than they did and cable numbers look good in number of shows, but most of them are short runs.

    As for the budgets being higher, given the move from network shows to cable shows (and now internet shows) with ever smaller budgets I really don’t see it (but I’m sure you’ll have some “study” by the same econometrists who keep arguing taxpayer handouts to the studios is somehow good for the economy…)

  3. The number of dramas being produced in 2014 is the highest on record. They don’t produce the same number of shows each year, the produce MORE. They also spend MORE making them.

    • Rena Moretti says:

      They also produce fewer and fewer episodes. It took two years for Aaron spelling to get to the 22 episodes that he did with Studio 60 in one year.

      I’m not sure what gives you the idea that all is well in Hollywood. Everyone can see the opportunities dwindling all the time.

      • Rena Moretti says:

        No problem on the mistake Adrian. I make mistakes all the time too. :)

        On Under The Dome and Revolution I agree with the budgets (or at least they sound reasonably close for ambitious SF-tinged productions with effects).

        On House of Cards, I can say without fear of being wrong that those numbers are ridiculous.

        Netflix keeps spouting outrageous numbers in the press and the press reprints them without the slightest check. It doesn’t make them right.

        You seem to place a lot of value on Studio System’s numbers. I don’t. Given the results you got from them, I’d suggest you may be paying a way too much money for an unreliable result.

        Again, I’ll remind you that you can shoot “a show” and it will have 8 episodes. You tied three of them together and you get to one 24 episode season of a single network show…

        It’s the number of episode stat that is relevant.

        On pilots, you’ll be surprised I tend to agree. Network executives have accepted vast over-spending on pilots for years and still can’t get them under control (hence the “we won’t do pilot any longer” nonsense).

        Pilots used to be 2 hour movies that could be exploited as such and cost a reasonable amount of money. It’s mis-management by the networks that got to that ridiculous state of affairs as there is no reason why pilots should be much more expensive than the resulting show (except for standing sets).

        I just don’t buy the vast inflation you are talking about as it’s not like they’re paying everyone a bunch more money.

        As for those numbers being “final audit” numbers… I fail to see what you mean. Nobody except the production accountants and some executives will know real costs. They’re not published anywhere. If Studio System pretends those are real numbers, shame on them.

  4. Rick Holler says:

    It’s fine by me, the more shows that go to Toronto the better it helps our economy up here.

    • Move from Network to Cable? There hasn’t been a “move”. Now cable makes dramas, in addition to the networks. Sure, cable seasons tend to be shorter. And yes, they may have lower budgets on many cable shows. But there are also premium dramas for HBO and Showtime etc., which cost even more than network dramas.

      As for internet dramas, the only players right now are Netflix & Amazon. Both spend significantly more on their shows than even the networks do.

      Finally, average budgets for all dramas have gone from $2 million only about 7 years ago to between $5-$8 million now.

      Finally, you are wrong again on the networks producing a lot less than they did in the past, at least in terms of dramas. In fact, the majors are producing the highest number of dramas on record.

      I have never seen anyone be so consistently wrong on so many facts. Do you bother doing any research? Like ever?

      • Rena,

        I made a mistake. I was referring to drama pilot episode costs. And yes, those costs have gone up that much.

        Average budgets for episodes have gone up, especially for shows that stay on the air.

        MRC, the proco that makes House of Cards for Netflix spent $68 million on S1, or $5.6 million per episode. Under the Dome (CBS) spends roughly $2.5 million per-episode. Revolution (NBC) was spending about $3 million each episode. These numbers are from final audits.

        In 2003, the networks had about 48 dramas going; 35 in 2007; 56 in 2011 and 63 in 2013. These are actual show counts. You can use many databases to confirm. I prefer studio system.

        Facts are facts. You have none. Your research is failing you.

      • Rena Moretti says:

        Adrian, I’m not sure where you get that Netflix and Yahoo spend more on their shows than the networks. All the feedback I’m getting is that they’re paying a lot less for their shows than the networks and asking for the studios/production companies to take a bigger deficit.

        Netflix on the “plus” side does spend lots of money to make sure every journalist calls its shows “hits” with no substantiation.

        Similarly, I’m not sure where you got the idea that the price for a drama quadrupled in seven years. Why would it have? Nothing has changed to make the production price that much higher (if it is higher at all). Wherever you got those numbers, all I can say is that they don’t know what they’re talking about on the face of the info.

        As far as the networks producing more dramas than ever, it’s so mind-boggling that you have that notion that I can’t imagine where you got it.

        Given the networks have given up Saturdays, are doing re-run specials (meaning outside of the regular time slot) all the time, even during premiere week and the various game shows playing 4-5 times a week, again it’s an idea that is so obviously erroneous, all I can say if that whomever is saying that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

        So in conclusion, yes I do research all the time. I also have a memory for what happened in the past and everything you’ve said is entirely wrong, and if you think about it for a second you’ll realize why (seriously prices for dramas quadrupling over seven years?!!!!)

        Even though you were quite aggressive and almost insulting, I’ll give you a hint: just because you read something about the movie and TV business in an article, even if it’s a trade, doesn’t mean it’s true. The business is notorious for brandishing absurd numbers that the press can’t wait to reprint (that’s actually one of the big problems Wikipedia is facing: sourcing by referring unresearched articles with erroneous info).

    • Rena Moretti says:

      Canadian taxpayer handouts don’t help the Canadian economy, they help the people who receive them (of which I assume you are one).

      That’s the problem with taxpayers handouts, the ones receiving them are very vocal to get and keep them and order absurd econometric “studies” that show economic benefits that never show up in real life.

      The pain on the taxpayers is diffuse so they rarely protest (except to be bemused at their ever increasing taxes at which point they move away if they can afford it).

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