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New York surpasses Los Angeles in attracting new TV drama pilots

MUMBAI: FilmL.A., the not-for-profit film office serving the Greater Los Angeles Region, has released a new report prepared by its research division. The 2014 Television Pilot Production Report provides updated insight into Los Angeles’ ongoing loss of new television pilot projects and promising series.

The 2013/2014 development cycle saw New York (with 24 drama projects retained) dethrone Los Angeles (with 19 drama projects retained) to become North America’s most attractive location for one-hour TV pilot production.

Overall, Los Angeles retained only 90 projects (19 one-hour dramas and 71 half-hour comedies) out of 203 tracked during the 2013/2014 development cycle, yielding a 44 per cent pilot production share. Last year, L.A.’s pilot production share was 52 per cent, and six years earlier, a commanding 82 per cent.

Leading competitors – including New York (35 total projects), Vancouver (17 total projects), Atlanta (12 total projects) and Toronto (8 total projects) – continue to gain ground on Los Angeles by attracting pilot producers with class-leading film incentive programs.

Most of the pilot projects shot outside California were lucrative one-hour drama series produced for network, cable, or new media distribution. Including “straight-to-series” orders favoured by new media content producers like Netflix, these projects cost $6 to $8 million to produce and employ 150-230 people during production. In all, there were 91 drama pilots produced outside Los Angeles in the ‘13/’14 development cycle, whittling L.A.’s share down to just 17 per cent of drama projects, another record low.

FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said. “Losing television pilots – and then series – to other North American competitors leads to the destruction of steady, well-paying California jobs. California’s current incentive programme makes it hard to attract and retain new pilots and TV series. The data makes plain why an expanded film incentive is needed to bring this part of the industry back.”

Having lost its leadership in drama pilot production, Los Angeles’ status as North America’s premier pilot production location now hinges on its attractiveness to comedy producers. Los Angeles’ share of overall comedy production in the ‘13/’14 development cycle was 76 per cent, down slightly from the 83 per cent share it enjoyed last year, but off considerably from the 100 per cent share the region captured seven years prior.

FilmL.A.’s study devotes considerable page space to film incentives and their effect on the pilot production market. The California Film & Television Tax Credit – outmatched as it is – has over time helped reverse a tiny amount of runaway production. From 2009-2014, the program has helped relocate seven current series to California from other destinations – a benefit worth thousands of full and part-time jobs and more than $170 million in qualified production spending. None of the series produced in California with the aid of the state’s tax credit have ever left the state in search of a new production location.

The study also examines the impact of new media companies’ efforts at original content production and resulting changes to broadcast and cable business models. The ‘13/’14 development cycle saw 38 network, cable and new media shows skip traditional pilot testing and instead go “straight-to-series.” More shows went straight to series this development cycle than in the three previous cycles combined. The list of “straight-to- series” shows includes both one-hour dramas (10 broadcast, and 20 between cable and new media) and half-hour comedies (3 broadcast, and 5 between cable and new media).