Los Angeles is seeing a continued migration of primetime dramas to other locations as more lucrative government incentives lure producers outside Hollywood.
That’s the conclusion of FilmL.A.’s annual Television Pilot Production report, released Tuesday, which projected that the major broadcast networks’ 2012-13 fall viewing season will be exposed to 47 Los Angeles-based shows (18 dramas, 29 comedies) and 24 shows (23 dramas and a single comedy) filmed outside Hollwyood. It’s the first time in the history of the study, which dates back to 2004, that less than half of the primetime dramas have been shot in Los Angeles.
All told, the Los Angeles-based dramas amounted to only 44% of the total dramas, compared to 57% last fall and 58% two seasons ago.
As of next mid-season, the drama share could be even smaller since only a single Los Angeles-based show was picked up as a midseason replacement — while half a dozen other mid-season dramas that were shot elsewhere were also picked up by the nets.
Pilots shot in Los Angeles amounted to just 29% of the total. But comedy remains king in Los Angeles with 91% of all pilots shot in Hollywood during the just-concluded season.
However, drama pilots generate far more economic activity with an estimated $5.5 million per pilot compared with $2 million for comedies. FilmL.A. noted that multi-camera, stage-bound comedies cost up to $1.5 million to produce per episode while single-camera comedies that regularly shoot on-location cost slightly more to make at up to $2.0 million per episode.
Total pilot production generated $262 million in economic activity from 92 pilots in Los Angeles during the just-concluded season, FilmL.A. said in the report. A total of 60 pilots were shot elsewhere.
“We think L.A. is settling into a new normal,” said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley, “Without a more competitive California tax incentive program, Los Angeles will find it hard to increase its share of total TV drama production.”
Currently, the state of California provides $100 million in annual tax credits for productions but demand far exceeds supply with 28 projects selected by lottery out of over 330 in the most recent round. Legislation has been introduced to extend the incentive program — far smaller than many other states — for another five years after it runs out next year.
Audley warned that Los Angeles needs to diversify which productions are being shot in Los Angeles.
“Of course, having comedies made in town is a boon for L.A.” Audley noted. “It leaves us vulnerable, though. The comedy genre is cyclical and there’s little to prevent single-camera comedies from following dramas out-of-state. Our economy would be well-served were the region to attract a more diversified slate of productions.”
Other jurisdictions that are attracting pilots include the City of New York, the Vancouver area and the city of Toronto. New York drew 16 of all TV drama pilots and provides $420 million annually in tax credits.
The report also said that pilot producers’ ongoing “wanderlust” introduces a pair of concerns — one immediate and and the other longer term — for those who work in TV in Los Angeles.
“On one hand, lost production share carries with it the threat of diminished pilot season spending,” it said. “But another, more serious concern is that the one-time loss of a pilot can easily lead to the loss of a promising series. Historically, pilots made in Los Angeles were highly likely to stay in the region if picked up for series production. At one time, pilots produced in other jurisdictions could also be expected to return to L.A. for series, but this is no longer to be expected.”
Pilots for networks are typically shot between January and April in advance of the upfront screenings in May for advertisers.