In early August, and in conjunction with Tune In: the Variety TV Summit 2014, FilmL.A. Research released a mini-study about television drama production in California. The report set out to answer key questions prompted by FilmL.A.’s release of its second quarter On-Location Film Production Report, which revealed unexpectedly strong quarterly gains in local television drama production. In July, FilmL.A. categorized the Q2 television figures as “a false lift” — so the question before researchers in August was, “what will the television landscape look like come Fall?”
As FilmL.A.’s second quarter report noted, much of the apparent Q2 growth in local television production could be traced to two developments: 1) demand for new scripted content for early summer air dates, and; 2) an increase in cable television series able to shoot in California because of the state’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program.
Driving much of the growth was an explosion of new original scripted content following the runaway success of CBS’s Under the Dome, which debuted in summer 2013:
“Due to the success of Under the Dome and the clear demand for new original programming, cable and broadcast networks seized the opportunity to fill summer 2014 with a flood of new scripted series. Displacing reruns, no fewer than 23 new one‐hour dramas were ordered for the 2014 summer season, seven of them made in California.”
In terms of total summer cable series retained, researchers found that behind California were New York (with four series), Canada (three series), Georgia (three series) and New Mexico (two series). With the exception of Tyrant and Crossbones, which film in Israel and Puerto Rico, respectively, all of the new summer dramas for 2014 filmed in locations with moderate-to-heavily-established film industry infrastructure. Without exception, every non‐California location that hosted one of the new summer series offers generous film incentives.
And, while California was fortunate to lead the competition in capturing more summer series than any other location, the good news was fully offset by the bad: since 2012, 29 one-hour dramas shot in California have completed their runs, striking more than a billion dollars in annual production spending from the state’s economy:
“From 2012 through the end of 2014, California will have seen 29 one‐hour dramas complete their series runs. The economic impact of these 29 dramas is/was enormous, and when not replaced by other locally‐made shows, the sting of their disappearance is keenly felt. Since the average cost per‐episode for a typical one‐hour drama can range from $2.2‐$5.5 million (or more) for a season that consists of 10‐22 episodes, FilmL.A. estimates that the loss of these series is worth as much as $1.2 billion annually in direct production spending.”
Unfortunately, California has been unable to retain its hold on programming schedules by replacing completed series with new ones. FilmL.A. Research noted that in 2006/07, a total of 73 one‐hour dramas (including network, basic and premium cable series) were made in California. By 2013/14, however, just 48 dramas were made in the state.
So where can California-made television fans turn for a solution? FilmL.A.’s report closed with an important call to action. If California wants to recover more of the production it has lost, the most direct and expedient way to do so would be to expand the state’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program.