Pilot season is a term people in the industry use often. It’s not a season only for writers, but is a great time for actors to get cast in an upcoming series. But when is pilot season? When should you be prepared? With new digital streaming services, is the season a’changin? Let’s find out.

How long is pilot season

What is pilot season?

A pilot, or the first episode of a show, is meant as a sample to see if it can turn into a series. The pilot scripts that are picked up during “pilot season” are also produced, cast, shot, and tested on audiences all in a few months. So when is this magical, frenzied, time of year?


When is pilot season?

Pilot season is, traditionally, the period of time between January and April when the studios create samples of potential new shows. During the beginning of pilot season, major networks purchase pilot scripts. Out of all of the pilots they buy, they then decide which ones will be cast and shot, (this is also pilot season for actors). The shows that test well, start production in July, so the show can premiere in the fall. (In May and June, TV production companies take a brief hiatus). But with now with cable channels, and new companies like Netflix, and Amazon, this season isn’t so locked in like it used to be. 


  • Network pilot season (January-April)
  • Digital and streaming season (year-round)
Network Pilot Season

Each year, networks buy a ton of pilots. But they only shoot the ones they think have the best chance of staying on the air. Remember commercials and ad space still rule broadcast television. So they’re very particular about the pilots they shoot, because they need to be able to keep people watching after each commercial. 

Pilot season is important for networks because the shows need to keep viewers to generate revenue. 

But it’s 2019, we know there are new forms of watching television that are commercial-free.

Digital and Streaming Services

The great thing about streaming services is that pilot season doesn’t really exist. If you’re a writer, you can cash in at any time, and the same goes for the actor. Digital platforms like Amazon, Netflix, HBO, and Hulu, owe advertisers zilch. Nada. They can make any schedule they want, whenever they want.

They are able to internally track who’s watching what, and make series orders based on that. Which is a much more democratic system if you ask me. Give more of what the people actually want. 

Not being a slave to ads also means you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want. Most streaming channels drop their content all at once. No more waiting each week for the new episode to air. 

But because they do this, that also means viewers can finish series in a matter of days or even hours. So not having a pilot season, and accepting new material on a consistent basis, keeps up with this new-age model. 

For digital channels, the pilot season is dead. But keep in mind, the industry hasn’t completely thrown it away. So get to writing, (or take some acting classes), and be prepared to sell yourself during whatever season it is!

Also, make sure to take advantage of our free TV Writing & Development masterclass, specifically, a class on How to Write a Memorable Pilot Script. Once you’re confident in your pilot, learn to put together a TV show pitch bible, in our next article.

Up Next

How to Create a TV Show Pitch Bible

Now that you’re more privy to the fact that pilot season is becoming more of a year round thing, maybe it’s time you put yours out there.

The next post teaches you some useful techniques about putting together a pitch bible that’ll sell. It also includes a free TV bible template. Check it out.

Up Next: Create a TV Show Pitch Bible →
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  • Alyssa Maio is a screenwriter from New Jersey, now living in Los Angeles. She works as a copywriter here at StudioBinder.

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