It has been five long months since L.A. Screenings '08 took place and yet the industry is still ranting about it as if it happened yesterday. But it's not that farfetched since, if not exactly yesterday, it resumed last month and will continue during MIPCOM. It's a sort of sequel, L.A. Screenings, Part II: The Pilots. Only a handful of pilots were screened by the studios last May because of the writers' strike that took place earlier in the year. Some studios were even reduced to making PowerPoint presentations for international buyers who flocked undeterred to L.A. Indeed, in May, 65 new series were announced (versus 110 in 2007) and, of these, only 44 had pilots (versus 66 in 2007).
A few words of appreciation for the buyers are in order here. These past Screenings proved that the notion that acquisition executives go to the L.A. Screenings just for the parties is totally unfounded. This time, they descended onto L.A. well aware that there were no parties, no give-aways and very few pilots. At the most, they got a Carsey-Werner T-shirt with the line:
"Carsey-Werner Wants 50% Of Whatever You Get When You Sell This T-Shirt On eBay."
At that time, the U.S. studios were already planning to invite buyers to various parts of the globe in the fall to screen their remaining crop of pilots.
While we're waiting to review the outcome of the L.A. Screenings' September sequel and to appraise its October preview, let's analyze the future of this 44-year-old purely organic market. This, however, cannot be done without looking at the state of affairs of the upfronts in New York. This is because the L.A. Screenings are a consequence of the upfronts. Without the upfronts, where the U.S. TV networks showcase their new seasons to ad agencies and clients with grand fanfare, there would be no L.A. Screenings, since new TV series would be introduced throughout the year (see related editorial on pg. 68).
According to Ad Age's Brian Steinberg, at last May's primetime upfronts, the U.S. broadcast TV networks managed to increase their CPM (ad rates) even though ad revenues stayed flat as compared to last year. The $9.2 billion committed to primetime broadcast TV for the 2008-2009 season was achieved by also offering more ad time, which was taken from the scattered-market inventory. In other words, the networks had to sell more to get last year's figures. It is unclear how the Fox TV network is reconciling the fact that, at the upfronts, it...