UPDATED: For a third straight year, AFTRA is dominating the broadcast pilot season by representing about 90% of the pilots. Of the 79 pilots ordered by the 5 broadcast nets, 69 are being covered by AFTRA, with one other still TBD.
Those that I have confirmed to be SAG-affiliated are NBC’s Wonder Woman reboot from David E. Kelley, the network’s Broadway-centric Smash, period Western The Crossing and the untitled Whitney Cummings comedy. Also SAG-represented are ABC’s comedy Suburgatory and Fox’s drama Exit Strategy, which has strong feature pedigree – director Antoine Fuqua and star Ethan Hawke. Also in the SAG column are 2 other drama pilots directed by big-name feature directors, ABC’s Phillip Noyce-helmed Revenge and CBS’ untitled Susannah Grant medical drama directed by Jonathan Demme. And, because Fox’s dramedy Bones is done under a SAG agreement, its planted spinoff The Finder automatically goes with SAG.
Once again Sony Pictures TV went 100% AFTRA, with the other studios doing only a handful projects with SAG: UMS (3), Warner Bros. TV & 20th Century Fox TV (2), ABC Studios & CBS TV Studios (1).
The shift from SAG, once the dominant actors union in broadcast primetime, to AFTRA started 2 years ago with the threat of a SAG strike. A strike was avoided and a more moderate leadership of SAG was elected but TV studios stayed with AFTRA, something that has been made possible by the proliferation of digital technology. Only series shot on 35mm have to go with SAG; digitally filmed shows can be SAG- or AFTRA-affiliated. Because the decision on filming equipment is made mainly by the pilot director, it’s often pilots helmed by feature directors who insist on using 35 mm film that get a SAG representation.
AFTRA’s dominant performance during broadcast pilots season in the past 2 years led to a fundamental primetime shift last fall when for the first time AFTRA overtook SAG as the top actors union representing 45 series on the broadcast networks this season vs. 38 for SAG. Of course, with the growing movement for unification within both unions, such separation could soon be rendered irrelevant.
Here is a list of the AFTRA-affiliated broadcast pilots this season: