The yearly pilgrimage to the Mecca of entertainment continues with the 56th annual L.A. Screenings, this year taking place May 14-23. But there will be a lot of changes this time around. Fox Studios is no longer around after being absorbed by Disney. There will be a reduced number of screening days. There will also be fewer studios screening, just three studio parties, but more exhibitors at the unofficial event headquarters, the InterContinental Hotel in Century City, Los Angeles.

Despite the changing business environment, the event is still expected to attract a record number of participants from all over the world, making it a memorable event, indeed.

In terms of participating distributors reflected by the exhibitors housed in the suites and tables at the InterContinenal (including indies and studios), there will be 82 companies (10 first-time exhibitors) — up from 73 last year. Many of the non-returning exhibitors will still be on hand, with plans to “park” themselves in the lobby of the InterContinental, trying to snag invites to the event’s various parties in order to meet with some of the 2,000 international buyers who are expected to attend.

In addition, there will be at least 10 distribution companies that won’t be exhibiting at the InterContinental, but will be bussing buyers to their local offices. Plus, it is expected that the distributors who’ll be “lounging” at the hotel will still be buying the $50 name badges introduced for the first time last year when NATPE teamed up with Isabella Marquez’s Events, which has for years purchased a block of rooms at the InterContinental in order to provide exhibitors with rate discounts and suite numbers in advance.

In terms of recreational activities, there will be seven invitation-only events from the independents (including ones hosted by Viacom, Telefilms, HBO, and Lionsgate), and three from the studios (Sony, MGM, and Paramount).

Missing this year will be the opening and closing parties from Disney and Twentieth Century Fox, Fox’s screenings (as it is now part of Disney), and Sony Pictures’ screenings (since it will only have a presentation). On the other hand, NATPE, which is again coordinating the indies’ portion of the screenings, is planning to host an opening reception.

Additionally, NATPE’s L.A. Screenings Independents showcase will kick off with the “Producers Summit” on Monday, May 13. This program is designed to educate, inform, and provide connectivity for attendees, including content producers, exhibitors, and buyers from around the world.

This year, CBS and Paramount plan to share the Paramount Theater on Paramount’s lot, with the former screening in the morning, and the latter taking over in the afternoon.

The re-merging of the three Viacom entities — Paramount, Viacom, and CBS — is also highly anticipated, and is expected to happen either during the L.A. Screenings or just thereafter.

The indie portion of the L.A. Screenings will end on Saturday, May 18, when CBS screens for the LATAM contingent. An earlier portion of the indie section will be shared by Paramount on May 16 and Viacom on May 17. For the studios, the screenings will end on May 23, a day earlier than previous years. This latest change caught many buyers by surprise. Some had planned to leave on the 25th, and now find themselves with an extra day in the Los Angeles area.

Because of the changes, some studio screenings are changing dates. For example, Disney LATAM, which traditionally screened on Wednesdays in years past, will this year screen on a Tuesday. In the past, this day was reserved for Sony’s LATAM contingent, but the studio is not screening this year (just giving a presentation followed by an evening reception).

On the other hand, Paramount is increasing its screening days to four, and taking Fox’s former day (Thursday, May 16) for the LATAM contingent.

In this regard, Dan Cohen, Paramount Pictures’ president of Worldwide Home Entertainment and Television Distribution, commented: “We are very excited to host our international distribution partners from across the globe for this year’s L.A. Screenings event at Paramount. We’ve cultivated relationships with such an impressive roster of talent in the creative community — writers, producers, directors, and actors — internationally and domestically. Paramount is extremely proud to showcase our new series slate, hallmarked by rich stories and dynamic characters, which will appeal to a global audience.”

As anticipated, the market will be full of surprises, but buyers are well prepared.

“[There will be] lots of change,” said Dermot Horan, director of Acquisitions and Co-productions at Ireland’s RTE. “I would expect fewer series this year as the networks have been distracted by mergers and acquisitions. I would also expect some longer days as the likes of NBCUniversal absorb the Sky Vision catalogue. I would also expect a level of uncertainty about what certain studios can actually put on the market when their direct-to-consumer platforms are being planned.”

A major Italian TV program buyer who wished to remain anonymous concurred, saying that he expects “less product than last year, but of a higher quality.”

He added: “More worrisome is that, in the future, a good portion of the studios’ production output will be for their own worldwide streaming services. Under this scenario, it’s logical to expect that traditional linear broadcasters, who until yesterday were the majors’ exclusive clients, will have access to fewer titles.”

He believes that the L.A. Screenings 2019 “could represent the end of an era,” and commented: “We’re witnessing a reduced participation of the U.S. majors at international TV markets. If even the L.A. Screenings assumes a lesser role, how will business be conducted without that direct rapport, so fundamentally important in our industry between buyers and sellers?”

In terms of pilots, some 64 have already been ordered for the 2019-2020 season by the major linear TV networks. This compares to 74 that had been commissioned last year by this time.

ABC and CBS lead the pack with 16 pilots each. ABC has nine dramas and seven comedies, while CBS has eight of each. FOX (the TV network still in the Murdoch family’s hands) has commissioned 12 pilots: six dramas and six comedies. NBC has 14 pilots, equally divided between dramas and comedies. The CW has six pilots, all dramas. The split between dramas and comedies is still about 60 percent dramas and 40 percent comedies, just like last year.

A complete L.A. Screenings schedule, parties, and a list of the new season’s TV series is available at: www.videoageinternational.net/l-a-screenings-2019

Audio Version (a DV Works service)