Pilots guide TV festival

'Daisies,' 'Chuck' premieres join contest

Hordes of TV hopefuls looking to make the leap to the small screen from YouTube descend on Gotham this week for the third annual New York TV Festival.

For the second year, the fest has significant network involvement and will host red-carpet preems of NBC’s “Chuck,” ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” and Fox’s “New Amsterdam.”

Last year the fest preemed NBC’s “Kidnapped,” ABC’s “Knights of Prosperity” and Fox’s “Standoff.” “Events like this help us generate significant word-of-mouth around a series,” said ABC exec VP of marketing Michael Benson.

The five-day event is built around a TV pilot contest, where winners in multiple categories will be selected from 28 finalists, whose pilots will be screened over the course of the festival. The pilots will also be available for viewing on MSN Video starting Wednesday.

In years past, winners of the TV Guide-sponsored “audience choice” award have been picked up by Versus and A&E. Last year’s winning pilot, a comedy called “Split the Difference,” was picked up for development by NBC Universal Television Studios.

Increasingly, the networks and talent agents see the fest as an opportunity to peruse pilots by uncredited artists who are nonetheless vetted by festival judges and staff.

“You have the opportunity to really help an up-and-coming new talent to be launched properly,” said fest board member Adam Berkowitz, co-head of TV packaging at CAA.

But as the fest grows in to a bigger media event, its guiding purpose has evolved from a pure talent search to an event for TV fans.

Ryan Seacrest is hosting E! News from the venue at New World Stages, while Fox TV’s “Good Morning New York” is promoting tickets to the premieres to the public.

“The first part of our mission is to provide a platform for indie artists and give them an on-ramp to the TV industry; the second is to celebrate great television,” said fest founder Terence Gray.

Among the new features added to the fest is the launch of a nation-wide talent search with Procter & Gamble Productions to unearth undiscovered comedic talent. The winning actors, comedians and improv performers were flown to New York and given 48 hours to produce an hour-long comedic pilot along the lines of “Saturday Night Live.”

This year the fest has also added a fellowship program where veteran TV producers Tom Fontana, Michael Davies, Mitch Hurwitz and Phil Rosenthal select a promising pilot and work with the artist over the next six months to develop their craft.

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