How Many TV Pilots Make It to Air?

It's estimated that about 2/3 of pilot television shows developed in America never even make it to air. The major networks usually order about 20 pilots per season, and of those, around 6 are chosen to be premiere episodes. Of every fifty scripts commissioned, around ten or fewer are selected to be produced as pilots.

More facts about the TV industry:

  • Major TV networks spend around 70% of their budgets on program development.

  • In the 1950s, most networks outsourced the creation of new series to advertising agencies, who not only came up with the ideas for new television shows, but also wrote the pilots and decided what time they should be shown.

  • An hour-long pilot program can cost as much as $2 million US Dollars to produce.

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Post 3

The article didn't answer this, but why is the first episode of a TV show always called a "pilot"? Is it because that's when the show takes off, like a pilot who's doing his/her first flying lesson?

Post 2

@Viranty - Yes, I definitely agree with this. And also, if you take into account the pilots for animated TV shows, then they take even longer to produce. At least in a live action show, all you need is the script and the actors, among other things. Most cartoons (especially the earlier ones) required countless hours of drawing frame by frame on the storyboard(s).

Post 1

Am I the only one who gets the feeling that most TV pilots take a lot longer to make than the rest of the episodes that follow? Let's look at it this way, practice makes perfect. As the seasons go on, the creators and producers have become much more familiar with the settings, characters, and concepts. However, the pilot is like a "test run" of sorts, where they're all trying to get their ideas together.

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