'Teen Wolf'

Scott McCall as played by Tyler Posey in MTV's series, "Teen Wolf," one of a handful of TV series that have relocated to L.A. in recent years. (MTV / May 26, 2011)

Despite a near-record number of pilots made here this year, Los Angeles is still struggling to keep television production in town.

Out of 186 television pilots this season, 96 were produced in the Los Angeles region, the second-largest annual tally in the city's history, according to a study by FilmL.A., a nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county.

However, the region continued to see a troubling slide in its share of the overall pilot production pie -- especially in the lucrative category of one-hour dramas -- as New York and rival cities grabbed a larger share of business, the report said.

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L.A. had four more pilots than a year ago and just six fewer than it handled during its peak year of 2004-2005.  The activity produced a 40% increase in production days for TV pilot shoots in Los Angeles between Jan. 1 through June 10. 

However, L.A. captured just 52% of all pilots this year,  down from 60% last season and well below the 82% during the 2006-2007 cycle.

The decline for Los Angeles comes at a time of growth overall in TV production thanks to the emergence of Netflix, Amazon and other new platforms that are becoming players in the comedy and drama game.

In all, 90 pilots were produced outside of California, up from 60 a year ago, with most of the production going to New York (19 pilots), Vancouver (15 pilots), Atlanta (nine pilots) and Toronto (six pilots). The cities are attractive locations because they offer tax breaks that aren’t available in California.

Of particular concern was the decline in the number of pilots for TV dramas, which are especially coveted because of their substantial impact on the local economy.  L.A. captured just 22% of all television drama pilots this year, down from 28% last year and compared with 63% in 2006-2007 season. And the number of L.A. based prime time dramas airing this fall has fallen below 40%, a new low, the report states.

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"While it's great to see this level of production happen in the industry, the subtext of it is not only are we continuing to lose our share, but we're losing some of the most valuable part of the business,'' FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said. "This is highly valued television production.  The fact that we have so little of it made in L.A. should be just as frightening as the fact that major films aren't produced here anymore. We're losing our brand as the center of filmed entertainment."

Audley said the findings underscore the limitations of California's film and TV tax credit program, which does not provide incentives for pilots and limits credits to basic cable shows or TV series that have returned from elsewhere. Only a handful of TV shows have relocated to California since the credit took effect in 2009, including MTV's "Teen Wolf," formerly in Georgia, and "Body of Proof," the ABC drama that moved from Rhode Island.

As the initial episode of proposed TV series produced in anticipation of May screenings for television advertisers, TV pilots are closely monitored because TV series typically locate where the pilot shoots. Pilots themselves are important employers. The average pilot employs about 150 people and carries a typical budget of $2 million for a comedy and $5.5 million for a drama.

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