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Old October 26th, 2008, 12:09 PM   #1
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Help with new travel show...pre production!

Hi all,

I'm in the ideas stage of wanting to produce my own travel show. I have my first destinations picked out. I want to start filming in April 2009 in Russia and am interested in any info on how to put it together...I myself will be host, I'll be sourcing out for all other team members. How do you find sponsors and do I try sell my pitch to the travel channel first? Any help on this topic will be very much appreciated!

Kind regards...(new member)

Soto
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Old November 6th, 2008, 07:41 AM   #2
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It's all about selling advertising. In a 30 min program (as per network) you have time to sell. On Fox Sports Southwest we can sell as much time as we want. The show I edit (Property and Ranch Connection) we have 3 spot breaks with 4- :30 spots each your sponsors buy those spots. The first thing I would do is put together a killer pilot which includes an open with motion graphics (flash sells) then one seg. you only want to use the pilot to sell to sponsors. Secure your air time/network. then the work begins -shooting and editing shows. We do 13 shows then re-run those. This model is the easiest way to do it. You can go the Discovery or other network route but your odds of airing are not as high. You have to pitch the powers that be and it better be something nobody else is doing in order to get noticed.
Good luck

you can check out a seg of Property and Ranch Connection on Youtube at
YouTube - PRC08-08Utube seg 1a.wmv
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Old November 6th, 2008, 08:32 AM   #3
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I will second Allen's response. No matter how good or how unique your show is if you don't have sponsors you are dead in the water. Unless you are a super salesman or promoter find someone who is. Pay them the 10% - 15% commission and smile.

Remember you are normally paying for the air time and it could run as high as $200,000 per year, depending on the channel that picks up your show.

A stunning pilot with a good storyline is absolutely necessary.

When you start looking for crew ... I will be here.

Jim
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Old November 6th, 2008, 10:42 AM   #4
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Moscow

If you're shooting in Moscow, get a local driver. I've never been so terrified, it was like Formula One. The traffic cops are predatory and bribeable. One pulled our driver over for going the wrong way up a one way street (fair enough, really). It started out with the threat of confiscation of driving licence and us all walking. A few roubles changed hands and it ended up with smiles and 'don't let me catch you driving without a seat belt again.' Seriously, it is well worth getting a local fixer and driver there. The rest of Russia, I was told, is better.
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Old November 6th, 2008, 01:06 PM   #5
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Hello Sotiris, I'm doing the same thing you are (almost). From the other comments, it seems that the process is similar around the world.

Here's my approach. First, I went ahead and made my half-hour outdoor program - complete and finished. Then I contacted the TV stations to let them know about the program and gave them a 2 to 3-minute Demo DVD of the program.

They then informed me what it cost for 30 minutes of their station's airtime, at the time-slot they would show this type of program.

After that came the search for sponsors, for example, 3 of them to purchase 10 minutes each (but this amount is not a hard and fast rule). Getting sponsors is the hard part, harder than making the program. Write emails to companies letting them know of your program and provide a link to an online demo so they can have an idea of your work and what the show is about, and ask if they would be willing to be a sponsor.

Hope this helps.

Of course, you don't have to finish the program entirely before looking for sponsors. Take a look at the type of companies that advertise during travel shows and approach similar ones.
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Old November 7th, 2008, 03:10 PM   #6
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This is a very interesting subject... and i am sure many more people are waiting to hear from people who have succeeded in this endeavor.

It seems that the powers that be, keep the info very private, i cant seem to find ANY information on what the networks or sponsors or talent, or anyone get paid...

i look forward to further responses.

Also, i was wondering, is it normal for a sponsor to pony up a check in the tens of thousands to an independent production house? also, typically what percentage of programs are fully paid for by the networks... who, in turn, sell the advertising?

thanks
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Old November 7th, 2008, 04:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Brinks View Post
This is a very interesting subject... and i am sure many more people are waiting to hear from people who have succeeded in this endeavor.

It seems that the powers that be, keep the info very private, i cant seem to find ANY information on what the networks or sponsors or talent, or anyone get paid...

i look forward to further responses.

Also, i was wondering, is it normal for a sponsor to pony up a check in the tens of thousands to an independent production house? also, typically what percentage of programs are fully paid for by the networks... who, in turn, sell the advertising?

thanks
My experience is the same. I couldn't for the life of me find out how much a narrator and writer get paid. I called around to the production houses and asked, without any success, and eventually one person did tell me. I still tried to find out from others so I could compare them and get an average of what the industry here pays, but have had no success there either. So I'm going with that one figure.

What I've deduced is that stations prefer not to buy programs probably unless they're from long-established production studios. This leaves the independent person to come up with the funds to buy the airtime and then get sponsors to cover the cost of the airtime. Once you buy the airtime, it becomes yours and you can sell the minutes out of your time-slot to the sponsors at a rate that you're free to set yourself.

As for them ponying up a cheque, I think that's where your pilot episode comes in. Make the best possible pilot you can (or part of a pilot depending on what you can afford) - nice quality footage (doesn't have to be HD), good editing, well-told narrative - and this is what you show the sponsors. They need to see what you can produce. Of course, this is my theory (which I happen to think is a good one...heh :^) ...) and right now I'm at the point where I'm still looking for sponsors (after writing countless emails!).
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Old November 7th, 2008, 05:11 PM   #8
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John

I would say that most of the cable channels (95% or better ?) sell their air time to small productions.

To all

Here is a copy of our rate sheet, never sold a commercial by the way. This is going to be your most difficult challenge. If you are not connected in some way your chances are well nil. Most large companies use ad agencies or produce their own shows. Mom and Pop shops don't have the $10,000 to advertise for 3 months. Nor do they see the value.

Title Sponsor
is the premier sponsor of the show and will receive the following:
Includes the title of the show. The show title will become “Your Companies name’s Billfish Adventures”.
30 second commercial that will be aired three times a week every week.
Sponsor role at the end of show.
Credit role at the end of show.
Sponsor ID at the beginning of each commercial break.
Listing on “Billfish Adventures” web site.
Minimum two (2) quarters
Total cost for the Title Sponsor is $16,000 per quarter.

Commercial Spot Thirty-Seconds
30 second commercial that will be aired three times a week every week.
Credit role at the end of show.
Listing on “Billfish Adventures” web site.
Total cost per spot per quarter is $10,000.

Segment Sponsor
Billboard at the beginning of a segment stating “This segment is brought to you by:” and then your company name and logo will appear on screen
Minimum two (2) quarters
Total cost for the Segment Sponsor is $1,400 per quarter.

We paid our writer $500 per episode and voice over talent $300. Shows were shot edited to final and then given to the writer and VO.

I will be glad to answer any other questions you all may have. I gave it my best shot and produced a really good show, unfortunately we never made a dime. It is all about demographics, coverage and how much of their product you can sell.

Helen - Emails and phone calls do not work. You have to get in the clients face, tell him how much it cost him per viewing, how many viewings per weeks he will receive, the average spent from each view and on and on. Do this 10 or 15 times per client and you might get him interested.

Good luck guys

Jim
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Old November 7th, 2008, 05:52 PM   #9
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I appreciate the responses and dont mean to "hijack" the thread... but i have a few more questions.

I have seen very few shows on television that take the 1950's radio approach to advertising AKA "the Hansens coffee variety hour"... in fact i can not think of any. therefore their must be some sort of network financing going?!?!

For example, what is the hypotheses on how a show like " no reservations" or "bizarre foods" is financed. i realize that these two people wrote books before they got their shows, however it seems unlikely that a they would be able to pre-sell the advertising...

once again, i have no clue about how much these shows cost to make, since there is about as much financial transparency as the mafia... but i know the "bounty hunter" was being paid 20 million per season before he was fired... and i doubt the production company had that much pre-sold advertising...

any response is greatly appreciated... and if anyone has succeeded in getting a program aired, i would love to hear the story!!!
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Old November 18th, 2008, 02:21 PM   #10
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With regard to the original post and the latest question, as a guy involved in the broadcast and cable TV business for 25 years, I've got to tell you that in most cases, when you're talking about national broadcast and cable networks like Travel or Discovery, it just doesn't work that way. RSNs may have different procedures.

Established broadcast and cable networks have a fairly short list of producers, production companies and studios they work with, and tend to take pitches only from them. They don't view "spec pilots" from anyone for liability reasons; they only consider people who get meetings arranged through an agent.

Many years ago when I was at CBS, it was a huge struggle to get this guy in to pitch who had a hit series on Discovery called "Eco-challenge." No one at CBS thought his bizarre concept had any relevance for the network. But a few execs and his agent kept pushing until this guy got a meeting with a low-level junior executive who believed in the show, and the following summer "Survivor" premiered. And this guy, Mark Burnett, was already an established producer who had a hit series on cable as well as an agent.

A show like "No Reservations" or "Bizarre Foods" will most likely come in as a pitch with the talent attached via an agent, and then the network will likely shop around for a production company to actually make the show if there isn't already an established one attached. It almost never happens that a guy shows up with a pilot and the network decides to buy the show and produce more. (Okay, it *did* sort of work that way with "Good Eats.") In no case are sponsors involved.

This isn't to say that sponsors aren't the single most important factor in ad-supported TV. They are. This type of TV exists only to deliver your eyeballs to advertisers, and content is just a way to kill time between commercials. But they just usually aren't involved at this stage of development, although that is beginning to change as well -- for example, if a network designs a show specifically as a home for a particular sponsor or group of sponsors, or if an advertiser develops the show and then brings it to the network.

There is a world of difference between an established cable or broadcast network and your local cable company, who *sells* local access time that you can buy to put on your show. In this case, you would be responsible for finding sponsors on your own to cover your costs and the fees the cable company will charge you. But they're not buying the show based on content; they're just selling you the time.

Also, don't confuse a station with a network. In some cases, your local station sells un-programmed time you could buy for your show, most likely at three in the morning. And cable networks do this as well; Food Network sells the early morning hours to infomercials. When I asked the President of the Network why we didn't program 24/7, she replied that we'd lose a fortune from the infomercial sales we'd have to give up.

Even with the democratization of the media progressing at breakneck speed, the old ways of doing things still tend to prevail. Not necessarily in all cases, but enough so that it's still a rule. Many years ago I used to teach a class at UCLA about how to build a career in the broadcast and cable TV business, and the first question in the first class was always: "I have a great idea; how do I get NBC to buy it?" And the answer always was: "You can't, until you work for 5 or 10 or 20 years as a writer/producer on someone else's hit show, and then you'll have a track record and enough credibility for them to let you in to pitch." And the truth is you can't and won't come up with an idea that hasn't been pitched a million times before, so your track record and proven ability to execute, not on one pilot but on 100 episodes, becomes even more crucial.

I say this not to throw cold water on anyone's dreams, but only to make the expectations of success more realistic. You might have better luck pitching your pilot/ideas to an established small production company -- look at the end credits of the shows on the channel you want to target to find out who they are. You'll see the same names coming up again and again. They are always looking for new ideas and talent, but even they will be hesitant to look at something that "came in over the transom" from someone who doesn't have an agent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Brinks View Post
but i know the "bounty hunter" was being paid 20 million per season before he was fired...
That's extremely unlikely. I'd be shocked if a guy like that was being paid more than $35K to $50K per episode for 13 episodes... most likely much less. If he was making $20M a year it was coming from somewhere else, like Personal Appearances and endorsements, not from the TV show or the Network. Basic cable networks are the cheapskates of the industry... they won't pay more than $1.98 for anything. Even "Iron Chef America," which at the time was the most expensive show in Food Network history (and may still be, for all I know) was about $500,000 per episode, if I recall correctly.

Last edited by Adam Gold; November 18th, 2008 at 03:11 PM.
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Old November 19th, 2008, 08:48 AM   #11
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That's a very good insight into the world of TV. True, I've observed the same names coming up on different shows and on different networks, including the hosts too. Like Monty Halls who had a marine-type show, now I see he's teamed up with another guy for a series. Josh Bernstein also is now on Discovery.

Btw, what are "RSNs"?
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Old November 19th, 2008, 12:10 PM   #12
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Sorry, jargon alert. RSNs are Regional Sports Networks like FSN (Fox Sports Network) Southwest, referred to in an earlier post. Think of them as a local TV Station, but on cable.

And what I meant by seeing the same names over and over again was the production companies themselves, not the on-air talent, who are usually just hired cattle.... look for the slides at the end of the end credits (if there are any) which show the name of the production company. You could then get contact info from the Hollywood Reporter Blu-Book or the weekly TV Production issue (I think it's Tuesdays or Thursdays), or even possibly the web.

Another thing to note is that while the original questions had to do with networks like Travel, and how to sell to them, many of the excellent responses were about buying time locally, which is a lot more like the self-publishing industry "vanity" press, in which you pay to have your book printed. Nothing wrong with that, but it's different than having someone pay you because your content is so wonderful they must have it and distribute it nationally, and then they use their formidable sales staffs to line up sponsors.

Last edited by Adam Gold; November 19th, 2008 at 12:42 PM.
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Old November 27th, 2008, 05:38 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jim Montgomery View Post

We paid our writer $500 per episode and voice over talent $300. Shows were shot edited to final and then given to the writer and VO.

Jim
What I'm wondering is, is the voice over talent paid according to the length of the program? If the episode is half-hour, would the payment differ from if it were 45 minutes to 1 hour?
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Old November 27th, 2008, 05:46 PM   #14
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*double post*
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Old November 27th, 2008, 07:46 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helen Habib View Post
What I'm wondering is, is the voice over talent paid according to the length of the program? If the episode is half-hour, would the payment differ from if it were 45 minutes to 1 hour?

I have voiced my share of TV shows over the years, and pay depends on a number of items.
The last hunting show I voiced paid $10K for 13 episodes & Billboards.
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