In a surprise development, studios held back on stockpiling feature films in Los Angeles during the past three months in the face of strike fever but third-quarter TV production stayed sizzling.

Third-quarter feature stats showed 1,897 days of off-lot shooting on public property in the Los Angeles area — down 22% from the third quarter of 2006 and off 24% from the previous quarter. It was the slowest third quarter for features in four years, according to permit statistics issued today by the Film L.A. agency.

“We had heard that production should continue to increase as contract talks instensified but we just didn’t see that happen during the third quarter,” Film L.A. president Steve MacDonald said.

But TV production was at the second-highest level ever recorded with 5,950 days, Film L.A. said. That figure represented a 10% gain from the second quarter and trailed only the first-quarter record of 6,478 days.

TV activity has soared in Los Angeles over the past few years, thanks to the growth of cable and reality shows. Film L.A. stats showed a 2% gain in the third quarter, pushed by a 43% hike in pilots and growth in areas such as talk and variety.

Reality TV continued to dominate, edging down 1% to 2,374 days, while TV drama activity declined 12% to 1,852. Sitcoms slid 16% to 504 days.

The figures are one of the few measures of local production activity, although some observers note that the stats capture less than half of the region’s production activity.