I came across this article titled The Economics of a Hit TV Show. It got me thinking that it is a shame that there are so many pilots produced that the public never gets to see. It would be cool if Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, or Vimeo could buy the rights and air them. It would be a very small amount more revenue than the pilots generate sitting on a shelf (actually a hard drive in data center). Or maybe a cable channel could get the rights and have a pilot marathon weekend.
An additional benefit would be that networks could see which pilots generated the most views and, maybe more importantly, the most positive buzz on social networks. Obviously it would usually be impossible to then pick up a series at that time due to the producers and actors moving onto other projects (though you could maybe recast the show) but it would give an indication of the type of shows that people are interested in that aren’t currently airing. The result would be more programming that the audience wants.
It’ll probably never happen though.