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Networks trying to find something to laugh at that they can own

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The broadcast networks are looking for more laughs this fall.

According to an analysis of pilot orders by Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox have ordered a total of 84 pilots, and of those 44 are comedies. Last year, the big four ordered 81 pilots, of which 34 were comedies. The drama orders are basically flat, with 35 ordered this spring compared to 34 last year. DiClemente did not include the CW, but that network has six drama pilots. The CW does not program comedies, at least not intentionally.

Taking a hit are reality shows. DiClemente, who is sourcing the trades, says there are only five unscripted shows in development at ABC, CBS and NBC combined. Fox has none for the fall but a few for the spring. The CW has four reality show possibilities for the fall. Last year, there were 13 unscripted shows in development for fall on the big four. Of course, keep in mind reality shows don’t always require quite the prep time as traditional sitcoms and comedies.

Fox has ordered the most comedy pilots, with 13 in the works, per the report. ABC, which has already said it will bring back three of its Wednesday night comedies (‘Modern Family,’ ‘Cougar Town’ and ‘The Middle’) for second seasons has 12 comedy pilots, while NBC has 11. CBS, which has the fewest holes to fill, ordered just eight sitcoms.

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While many try to identify trends with what genres are being ordered, it often has as much to do with what an individual network needs at a given time. Last year, NBC ordered only 15 pilots because it was banking on Jay Leno filling the 10 p.m. hour. This year it has ordered 22, including 11 dramas.

Owning your own content is still a priority for the networks. Even NBC, which has struggled this season, has 14 pilots that are in-house. Of Fox’s 17 pilots, 11 are in-house.

-- Joe Flint


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