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Pilot Season 2018: Volume Steady With 2017, Multi-Camera Comedy Orders Surge

The broadcast networks are now deep in the heart of pilot season, with the volume of pilot orders for the 2018-2019 season on par with last year.

The five networks have collectively ordered 74 pilots, with 45 of those being dramas and 29 comedies. In 2017, the networks also ordered 74 pilots total, with 41 of those being dramas and 33 being comedies. 2017 was also down approximately 16 percent from the 88 pilots ordered in 2016.

Multi-camera comedies, whose imminent destruction has been trumpeted for several years, made a major resurgence this year. Of the 29 comedies ordered to pilot, 16 are multi-cams. That is more than double the seven multi-cams ordered to pilot in 2017. The move to more multi-cams is not surprising, as the format is typically less costly than single-camera comedies at a time when networks are looking to reduce costs.

Reboots, revivals, and adaptations also remain hot commodities across broadcast. CBS has ordered pilots for new versions of “Cagney and Lacey” and “Magnum P.I.” as well as a potential “L.A. Confidential” series, while the network has also ordered a 13-episode revival of “Murphy Brown.” At ABC, a reboot of “Get Christie Love” has already cast “Pitch” alum Kylie Bunbury in the title role, with the network also working on a female-led version of “Greatest American Hero.” Meanwhile, NBC is prepping a “Bad Boys” spinoff centered around Gabrielle Union, and The CW is banking on new versions of “Charmed” and “Roswell.”

Broadcast Network Pilot Orders

Network Comedies Dramas Total
ABC 9 13 22
CBS 8 10 18
CW 9 9
Fox 6 5 11
NBC 6 8 14
Total 29 45 74

On the studio side, vertical integration was again the name of the game, with the networks again mostly oredering projects from their sister studios. CBS Television Studios had the most orders with 20, up from last year’s 17. Of those, nine are co-productions, including the straight-to-series order for the Dick Wolf series “FBI,” which is co-produced by Universal Television. The studio was also behind four of the nine pilots at The CW.

ABC Studios had the second most orders with 18, up from 15 last year with three co-productions. Those co-productions include “Greatest American Hero” with 20th Century Fox Television. The studio also provided the vast majority of ABC’s pilot pick ups, including its two straight-to-series orders, “The Rookie” starring Nathan Fillion and “Take Two” starring Rachel Bilson and Eddie Cibrian.

Warner Bros. Television was third this year with 14 pick ups with two co-productions. That is up from the 12 orders the independent studio secured last year. WBTV will retain control of the “Murphy Brown” revival at CBS and is also behind five of the pilots picked up at The CW, including the “Supernatural” spinoff “Wayward Sisters.” Only Fox does not have a project from the studio in the works.

20th Century Fox Television tied for fourth with 13 orders, down from 15 a year ago with four co-productions. Of those 13, almost all went to Fox. The only 20th TV projects not set up at Fox are the ABC projects “Greatest American Hero” (co-produced with ABC Studios) and the JJ Philbin-Liz Meriwether comedy “Single Parents.”

Universal Television also had 13 pilot orders, with three co-productions. That is up slightly from the 11 orders UTV locked in last year, with most of the orders this year landing at NBC. The studio is also producing “Get Christie Love” at ABC with Lionsgate, as well as Dick Wolf’s “FBI” and the reboot of “Magnum P.I.” at CBS.

Sony Pictures Television slipped from nine pick ups last year to five this year. Of those, three were co-productions. Those three co-productions are all with CBS. The studio does control its two pick ups at NBC, however: the single-camera comedy “Guess Who Died” from Norman Lear and Peter Tolan and the “Bad Boys” spinoff.

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