Television pilots are made every year and not all of them get picked up for a season or series. What happens to the pilot then? Does it get stored somewhere? Who holds the rights to it?

  • If the questions need to be separated please let me know. Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 20:51
  • Looks fine to me. Good question BTW Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 21:11
  • Apropos of nothing, I really wish Global Frequency would have been picked up to series. So much potential for a year-long show. Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 2:10
  • I should imagine that the rights, like with any other show, are divined based upon the contracts signed by those involved. I doubt that there is any one answer.
    – Polynomial
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


There is no standard practice for TV pilots (failed or otherwise), as their possessors will have different intentions. Some, but not all, successful pilots are deployed as the maiden episode of a TV series, with the rest of the show built off the back of it; others require recasting, and the pilot itself is buried or re-shot for consistency.

Failed pilots, however, typically have a much more varied existence.

Some are retained by their developing networks, in order to be used as proof of concept for another project (typically to showcase the talents of their respective writers).

Projects which deploy licensed characters are sometimes only created to stop the character rights lapsing. Wonder Woman is a possible recent example of this, as its inability to be picked up stunned people. It has, however, been used as leverage to produce Amazon by the same network: as if Wonder Woman needed a PoC, at this point!

Other works become cherished as lost treasures, in which case networks will release them to special events in order to be exhibited (Comic-Con/Memorabilia events)...

Lost pilots were, previously, scheduled into graveyard shifts in order to operate as novelties and pull an audience: this was allegedly back when there was a comparable lack of syndicated content to absorb some air time.

Basically, it's up to the developing studio: who in developing it will retain the rights to it. If a show wasn't picked up, ostensibly it's because it's not good enough (and hence an embarrassment to the studio). If this were the case, a Studio may wish to simply bury the pilot so it's not available for wide exhibition. It's entirely down to the mandate of the developers whether the show sees daylight.

  • This looks like it covers the question pretty well. When trying to find a pilot though do you think it'd be best to contact to try to obtain one? Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 13:41
  • I remember ... sometime in the 60's I guess: One of the US networks during the summer ran a whole series of failed pilots. I remember thinking that some of them were quite good. Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 21:00

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