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Television pilot

A television pilot is the first episode of an intended television series. While many pilots are shot, few make it to the screen, and even fewer go on to become full-fledged television series. Competition at the network level is intense, with advertising dollars and choice viewer demographics at stake.

The concept for a pilot is generally "pitched" to network executives by a producer or writer. If interested, the network will fund the writing of a script. This may happen 50 times in a particular year. At this point "development hell" commences, as various stakeholders at the network propose changes, and rewrites occur to satisfy those proposals.

If the script for a pilot has satisfied the stakeholders at the network and is sufficiently exciting, then the production of the pilot itself can begin. Perhaps 10% to 20% of the scripts commissioned by Hollywood networks actually get to the production stage.

Pilots are expensive to produce. Before a network commits to funding an entire pilot episode, it often requests a pilot presentation, a one-day shoot that, when edited together, gives a general idea of the look and feel of the proposed show.

Pilots most often run in the fall television season, but also after the winter holiday hiatus, when mid-season replacement shows air to replace those shows cancelled mid-way through the year. More rarely, a pilot will air in summer, as was the case with the 2003 pilot of the U.S. show, The OC.