Magazine article Variety

Networks Betting Big on Female- Driven Pilots

Magazine article Variety

Networks Betting Big on Female- Driven Pilots

Article excerpt

THE TIME'S UP MOVEMENT has upended entertainment business as usual. Awards season has been transformed by industry professionals using it as a platform to advocate for change. Executive searches, such as the one taking place at Amazon for a new entertainment chief, have seen the stock of female candidates rise.

Now broadcast TV development, where gains in diversity and inclusion have come only slowly, appears to be building momentum toward achieving some of its goals.

Pilot season is in full swing, with networks having ordered dozens of trial episodes in recent weeks. Only a fraction of those shot will be picked up to series in time for upfront presentations. But a look at the pilots ordered through Feb. 2 indicates that when networks make their pitches to advertisers in May, many will be touting new programs that feature women in front of and behind the camera.

Of the 66 broadcast pilots ordered thus far, 27 hail from female writer-executive producers, and 32 have female lead or co-lead characters.

"Because culture is a reflection of what's happening in society, I'd be surprised if there wasn't some responsiveness to what's going on, particularly because a lot of it has been driven by the artistic community," said Stacey Schulman, executive VP of strategy and analytics for Katz Media Group.

Multiple TV literary agents who spoke with Variety said that broadcast networks are taking steps to increase female representation this pilot season, particularly on dramas series and in the director's chair. One agent noted that minority directors are also being sought.

The CW has the greatest female representation so far, with seven of nine pilots hailing from writer-exec producers who are women and eight of nine featuring female leads or co-leads. When network president Mark Pedowitz arrived in 2012, he made a point of courting longabsent male viewers with superhero action series such as "Arrow" and "Flash." But the current crop of pilots reflects a recent push begun with soaps such as "Riverdale" and "Dynasty" to again bolster female viewership.

At NBC, a "Bad Boys" spinoffstarring Gabrielle Union is among six of the network's 13 pilots that feature female leads or co-leads. Three of the orders come from female creators. …

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