Streaming's Rise and the Pandemic Are Changing Film Production in LA, Reports Find

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Streaming's Rise and the Pandemic Are Changing Film Production in LA, Reports Find
Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

Streaming is sidelining TV pilots. That's one of the findings in a pair of new reports released Wednesday by the nonprofit that manages most of L.A. County's film-permitting process.

The reports document the pandemic and how the rise in streaming services is changing the film-production world and challenging California's place in it.


The percentage of scripted TV projects that have foregone a traditional pilot episode and instead gone "straight-to-series" (STS) has skyrocketed, from 6% in 2012 to 66% in 2020. That's a trend largely driven by streamers, who distributed nearly 90% of their 2020 projects using that model, compared to 76.3% for cable and 15.3% for broadcast.

"We've been told (streamers' projects) get vetted a lot more heavily upfront," said the nonprofit FilmLA's president, Paul Audley. That, alongside streaming's rise, has ushered in the shift away from shooting a pilot and then shopping it to buyers.

Data and graphic from FilmLA

And for the second straight year, streaming made up the largest portion of scripted-TV projects. Of the 215 total such projects in FilmLA's 2020 cycle, streaming led the way with 97 projects, up 27.6% from 2019. Scripted cable projects rose 11.3% to 59, while broadcast fell 11.9% from 67 to 59. 2019 was the first year streaming projects eclipsed broadcast, and that margin has now widened.

California retains its spot as the top location for new scripted-TV projects. But there is increasing competition from other suitors trying to lure Hollywood productions. In 2018, the Golden State hosted 52.4% of scripted-TV projects. That fell to 43.1% in 2019 and further to 41.1% in 2020.

The state is still king when it comes to streaming, but its overall share is steadily falling. California hosted 29 new scripted projects last year, compared to Canada's 24 and New York's 17. Georgia, which has made a play for Hollywood's films, only hosted six scripted productions.

Last year was the bleakest year on record for production in the nonprofit FilmLA's 25-year history. After a nearly three-month pandemic-induced shutdown, film and TV production in L.A. returned slowly in 2020 under new restrictions. Those rules extended shooting timelines but limited what could be produced, cutting on-location shooting days in L.A. County 48% year-over-year, according to a new year-in-review report from the nonprofit.

Still, there were some bright spots, including the re-emergence of reality television. In the last quarter of 2020, overall television production days rose 6% year-over-year, with reality TV leading the way with a 93% increase from 2019. That's a reflection of reality's simpler production requirements compared to scripted shows, which make it easier to adhere to public health and industry guidelines.

Scripted television, on the other hand, plummeted. Drama shoot-days in 2020 fell 45.8% year-over-year, and comedy dropped 75.9%. Those figures likely underestimate the damage, because of FilmLA's methodology. The organization measures production volume by shoot-days; but due to the new health and safety protocols, Audley said productions are now requiring more time, meaning it takes more shoot-days to create the same amount of output.

"It's a double-edged sword," Audley said. "One edge is real gratitude that the industry and public health have found a way for the film industry to work at least at some level, because there are thousands of small businesses dependent on this industry and whatever work we can get out is really helpful. The other side is this pandemic has really decimated this industry that has a huge impact on Los Angeles."

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The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

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Idealab

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Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

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Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

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KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

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Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

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Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

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Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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