COVID has pushed all industries into a new normal, and TV production is no exception. During the months of April, May, and into June, production came to a near standstill as companies determined how they would operate while still maintaining safety in the workplace. There are several new precautions that have been put in place by production companies as they take the first steps to restart activities.
Talent, crews, and staff must adhere to safety and COVID testing protocols and be tested 3-5 times per week to keep productions going. Shorter shooting dates as well as daily workday time caps have also been put in place. In addition, the size of production teams has been greatly reduced, affecting shooting locations, production quality and overall working conditions. With these new protocols being rolled out it is being reflected in the type of programming that is rolling out, which is primarily unscripted and with less overall production.
This has generated a strategy shift for TV production companies and TV networks. Networks are forgoing series pilots and making straight-to-series commitments, as well as creating year-round projects, following the steps of Netflix and other streaming services. Other networks like FOX are focusing on developing animated series because animation productions have been largely unaffected by COVID. As another example of this, Comedy Central has been shifting its development focus to adult animated shows. The network has canceled many of its live-action shows, including “Drunk History” and “Tosh. 0,” while prepping animated reboots of “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “The Ren & Stimpy Show” along with a “Daria” spinoff titled “Jodie. ”
The return of production teams to the Hollywood studios began in mid-June when the process for shooting permits began. And while there has been an increase of 40% in permits requested from July to August, the total volume of permits requested is still at 44% of what is normally expected during summer conditions. Large productions are expected to return at the end of September into October.
For Q4, this means unscripted shows will continue to make up larger than normal portion of programming until big-name scripted shows return in November. Sports and News will also continue to take up more of the lineup given their recent success in driving viewership. Q1 is expected to slowly ramp-up and return “to normal,” assuming production companies can continue to work uninterrupted.