Pilot Season 2020: CBS TV Studios Is Latest To Pay Casts & Extend Options On Pilots Suspended Due To COVID-19

A month ago, several TV studios, including Disney TV Studios, Warner Bros. TV and Universal TV, started to pay actors on broadcast pilots, which could not be produced because of the coronavirus pandemic. CBS TV Studios in the past couple of weeks also initiated compensation for most of the series regulars on the studio’s pilots, with several deals still in negotiations, I have learned.

Your Complete Guide to Pilots and Straight-to-Series orders

I hear the formula used by CBS TV Studios involves actors receiving 50% of their pilot fees now as part of an agreement to extend their options through Sept. 30. If the pilots are not produced by then, the studio would pay the remaining 50% to hold the casts through Dec. 30, with actors entitled to another payment representing 50% of the pilot if a further extension is needed.

The template is similar to the one used by Disney TV Studios and Universal TV as all major TV studios have now extended the options on the majority of their pilot casts that traditionally expire June 30. (DTVS and Uni TV are believed to be making the second 50% payment on June 30; DTVS also paid its pilot guest stars. WBTV is said to have payed its pilot casts in full already,) There have been several projects that are not impacted as they have gone straight-to-series at CBS, ABC and the CW, including the CBS TV Studios-produced drama Clarice and co-production The Equalizer, both at CBS.

The option extensions also applies to a number of actions whose pilot casting deals closed after the Hollywood shutdown started in mid-March and were never announced.

The list includes Rebecca Wisocky, who was cast in the CBS single-camera comedy pilot, Ghosts, Vanessa Lachey, who was set to co-star opposite Malin Akerman and Oliver Hudson in the multi-camera comedy The Three Of Us; Edwin Hodge, who joined drama Good Sam, starring Sophia Bush; and  Arliss Howard, who was added to Ways & Means, headlined by Patrick Dempse. I hear Wisocky, Lachey and Hodge have been extended, while Howard’s option pickup is pending.

The payments to pilot casts came after weeks of discussions between executives from the various TV studios and SAG-AFTRA representatives over interpretations of the language in actors’ contracts as the current shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic is without precedent. I hear CBS TV Studios’ agreements were delayed a bit by initially proposed terms that involved longer holds that were subsequently amended after resistance from actors and their reps.

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