CBS’ Amy Reisenbach On New Long-Term Development Strategy: “Pilot Season Is Probably Dead For Us”

For the first time this year, CBS did not order any pilots during the traditional pilot season window. And it may not be the last.

“Pilots aren’t dead, I would say pilot season is probably dead for us because why should we be held to that very specific window anymore, nobody else is,” CBS Entertainment President Amy Reisenbach said during the network’s unveiling of its 2024-25 schedule. “We only get so many shots at bat, let’s make sure when we take those swings that the bases are fully loaded for us.”

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As Reisenbach revealed in a Q&A with Deadline in January, CBS has switched to a long-term development strategy of making series pickup decisions well in advance to allow for better planning and longer marketing runway. All of CBS’ new scripted series for 2024-25 were locked in by end of January.

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Today, Reisenbach addressed the shift.

“As we’ve talked about, we changed up our development strategy. We are thinking more long-term, we are really thinking in terms of it being more bespoke, in terms of how we develop projects,” she said. “We don’t want to be beholden to the pilot season anymore. We want to think more long-term, more strategically, and we think that will benefit us in a multitude of ways.”

Reisenbach used the announcement of Fire Country spinoff Sheriff Country‘s series order for 2025-26 as an example.

Making the pickup decision now, “will give us plenty of time to cast it, to figure out how we want to produce it, give it scheduling time, marketing time. It’s a huge opportunity for us, and it speaks to the kind of development we want to be doing right now,” Reisenbach said.

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George Cheeks, CEO of CBS, spoke about how the recent budget cuts across linear TV, including broadcast, has informed the new strategy as well as renewal decisions which now often come with budget reductions.

“Obviously linear ad revenue has declined. I think the finance component of decisions that we need to make has reached a higher level that maybe it did 10 years ago,” he said. “However, I think there is a very positive component to that. Because what I think it has done is it’s made us incredibly nimble. I think a lot of us who work in broadcast were stuck in that legacy structure of, we will do 17-20 pilots every year, we will follow that normal schedule.”

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Along with other broadcast networks, CBS now regularly employs writers rooms and straight-to-series orders, especially on the drama side, having done that by necessity during the pandemic. That worked quite well for The Equalizer, ordered direct-to-series in 2020, which was just renewed for a fifth season.

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“In a weird way, starting with the pandemic, we started to trust our instincts more, we started to think, there may be creators we really believe in who we don’t need to do a pilot for. We just recognized that financial constraints don’t necessarily temper you, they can actually make you more innovative and nimble,” Cheeks said.

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Added Reisenbach, “We are all know how to do it for the budget we have, and we never sacrifice quality.”

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