It used to be, television followed a regimented schedule: new seasons and series premiered in the fall, new episodes aired each week through the winter, finales marked the end of seasons in the spring, reruns were played during the summer. Now, although fall is still the time for premieres–this year, more than 120 series are returning or kicking off–it isn’t the only season for premieres.
The reason for fall premiere season is that TV has long run on a tight schedule, dating back to when basic cable networks were the only networks, and we still see this schedule today. Though the process starts in early summer with a process of pitching/re-pitching a TV show to studios and networks, once a network is interested, the pilot development process enters the scripting stage around October. Casting generally takes place in January and filming gets underway soon after to be ready for upfronts in May.
Upfronts are presentations given by TV networks to advertisers where they show off their shiny new toys–the series that will be premiering in the coming fall season. Shows may be ordered before upfronts in a variety of ways, or they may be ordered at the last minute right before a network’s presentation. Most of this development goes on under the radar of casual TV viewers, but if you’ve ever heard about a TV show that never made it to air and wondered what went wrong, it’s likely that the network pulled the plug somewhere in this development process.
Of course, as the television industry evolves, there has been speculation into the benefits and drawbacks of sticking to the pilot season model. Those in favor of moving away from pilot season toward a year-round development cycle argue that casting roughly 100 pilots for broadcast networks in such a short amount of time causes trouble for series attempting to get off the ground. However, others contend that pilot season gives the entire TV industry the push it needs to generate new content for viewers.
Although the majority of the big five networks–CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and The CW–still adhere to the TV development schedule, Fox dropped out of the pilot season in 2014 in order to develop series like its 24 reboot throughout the year. However, Fox returned to pilot season in 2015, where the network picked up adaptation Minority Report as well as Rosewood.
Still, Netflix has helped to alter the TV industry by producing series in a year-round development model in which the streaming service can debut a new original show, or new season of an original show, every month or so. Add in the number of new series and seasons hitting TV networks and not only has the fall premiere season grown, it has spun off into new premiere seasons entirely.
Though fall premiere season may have been reserved for a few weeks in September decades ago, now fall premieres start early in the month and span well into October, even November in some cases. Then, there are the midseason premieres–shows that are either more risky for networks or are meant to coexist with another show while it’s on a midseason hiatus, such as how Marvel’s Agent Carter airs during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s break on ABC. Outside of the regular season, though, the summer has become a TV season in its own right and those shows generally premiere at the end of May and into June following the regular season finales.
Given the crowded schedule, and the sheer number of television shows currently scheduled in the coming year, it’s understandable that networks and streaming services have adapted and introduced new premiere seasons. Just like the summer movie season has expanded to make room for all the superhero flicks, blockbuster reboots, and raunchy comedies, so too has the TV premiere season.
However, as with the summer movie season expansion, move TV premieres means more TV shows to watch and if you, like me, are an avid fan of television, that offers plenty of new series to check out and perhaps add to a weekly watch list. Sure, some will ask whether we, as a society, have too much television, but that’s similar to asking whether we have too many books–the answer is no, we will never have too many books or too much television.
Featured photo courtesy of Miguel Pires da Rosa.