Back before streaming services exploded, network television was the be-all and end-all of television shows. From January to April, networks would buy up scripts, shoot pilot episodes for audience testing, and then greenlight the ones that showed the most promise. All of this was done with the underlying understanding that the shows needed to be good enough to keep audiences watching even through commercials.
As an actor, one can imagine just how exciting and lucrative this period of time could be (not to mention the excitement of possibly being in a pilot that got picked up). However, streaming services have thrown this season into turmoil. With the ability to immediately know what audiences are watching and what they’re liking, shows can be ordered on-demand. Couple that with the choice to film full seasons without the need to test audiences and you now have a situation where the pilot season is facing obsolescence.
Currently, the pilot season still exists despite the orders for shows having decreased in recent years. To combat streaming’s freedom, networks have expanded into a two pilot plan. The main one still runs but a secondary now kicks off in what would be the off season. In addition, the prestige of landing a network gig still has yet to be topped by streaming services. So while the tides are turning, there remains a long way to go before the pilot season is fully defunct.
However, this isn’t entirely bad news for actors.
While a challenging landscape for the companies producing the shows, it is great news for the talent pool. With so many openings and casting calls, acting is becoming more lucrative than ever. Show production growing beyond one four-month period a year means a lot more opportunities out there for fresh talent.