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."

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


Bling Capital’s Kyle Lui On How Small Funds Can Better Support Young Founders

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
Bling Capital’s Kyle Lui On How Small Funds Can Better Support Young Founders

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Bling Capital’s Kyle Lui talks about why he moved earlier stage in his investing and how investors can best support founders.

Lui joined his friend—and first angel investor—Ben Ling as a general partner at Bling Capital, which focuses on pre-seed and seed-stage funding rounds. The desire to work in earlier funding stages alongside someone he knew well drew him away from his role as a partner at multi-billion-dollar venture firm DCM, where he was part of the team that invested in, now known as TikTok.

Read moreShow less

This Language App Is Using Social Media Influencers To Raise Its Profile

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

This Language App Is Using Social Media Influencers To Raise Its Profile
Photo courtesy of HeyPal

Katy Johnson, a reality TV star and globe-trotting travel blogger, has lately offered some advice to her more than 100,000 Instagram followers.

“I urge you to learn a new language,” the model has told her fans, noting how locals in the foreign countries she has visited appreciate the effort. “It’s essential to be able to connect with people as much as possible while I travel,” she wrote in another post last month. Johnson, a former contestant on the TV show “Joe Millionaire,” has repeatedly suggested one particular way to study a new language: HeyPal, a one-year-old language-learning app.

Read moreShow less

TikTok Parent ByteDance Eclipses $1B in Mobile Games Sales

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

TikTok Parent ByteDance Eclipses $1B in Mobile Games Sales
Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

TikTok parent company ByteDance’s big bet on mobile gaming is paying off.

The Chinese tech giant’s growing portfolio of mobile games has brought in more than $1 billion in revenue over the past 12 months, according to a report by data analytics company Sensor Tower, which examined player spending from Apple’s App Store and Google Play dating back to June 2021.

Read moreShow less