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Old February 11th, 2005, 02:56 PM   #1
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producing for cable - do the $ make sense long term?

Hello,

Anyone out there have experience producing for cable channels? Or .. can point to (recent) resources on the economics of producing for cable?

Specifically, I'm interested in how much *on average* or *in a range* one might project as income from a non-narrative series on a medium or large cable/satv channel (assuming the small guys can't/won't pay). I'm writing a business plan to try to convince myself the work to get there might be worth it.

In general, I'm interested in the way money flows in the industry and the 'unwritten' rules of the road.

Understanding:
a) this is a very murky and variable thing based on project, experience, channel, stars, and so forth .. but rule of thumb-wise

b) many large cable channels have in-house production - does anyone have a feel for how much production (%) is being contracted out these days?

- I've seen a book or two listed on Amazon that approached the subject but not sure they offered the nitty gritty or were as up to date as they needed to be.

many thanks,
Lorraine
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Old February 11th, 2005, 08:39 PM   #2
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I don't have personal experience producing programs for cable networks (other than one failed attempt that didn't get much further than a couple of interviews -- not even to a completed episode), but based on my conversations with some videographers (including dvinfo members), I think a good number of cable programs are actualy not done in-house (cable news channels probably being the main exception).

Again, based on my conversations with others, I know that Grenada, for example, make programming for MTV (Room Raiders), Animal Planet, and others. In turn, Grenada will hire crews (cameramen, etc) on an as-needed basis -- per episode(s), for example. It seems that it is much cheaper/easier for someone like MTV to simply buy the shows from outside producers than to maintain an in-house crew to do it all.

But this is all second-hand info. I know that some dvinfo members have first-hand experience with these matters, and perhaps they'll come along and share their knowledge. But my impression is that if you've got a good idea at a good price, there's someone who will bite. All you need is a crystal ball to find out what the next big trend is :)
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Old February 12th, 2005, 09:31 AM   #3
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John,

Thanks for your reply.

I'd say good job getting the interview. My guess is you accomplished that through networking?

Interesting you bring up Grenada, a pretty big player if I'm not mistaken, which leads to questions about the degree industry consolidation at the producer level.

As for the crystal ball .. wish I had one .. meanwhile stuck with good old fashioned market research.

-Lorraine
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Old February 12th, 2005, 11:34 AM   #4
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Ha ha -- sorry, I didn't mean to imply that we even get that far! :)

Sadly, I meant that I only shot a few interviews for the would-be show (http://www.karatemedia.com/interviews/) -- nothing as truly interesting as meeting with some network execs! The host and I were going to do a couple episodes for a local cable channel to get our feet wet, then try to take it to a larger cable network -- or so were our wide-eyed plans. I don't think MTV would let us in the building to use the restroom, much less for a meeting, heh heh.

Unfortunatey, I'm only qualified to share anecdotal/second-hand info on this subject. For now... :)
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Old March 4th, 2005, 06:19 PM   #5
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Hello Lorraine. I have worked on several network cable television shows and it seems that I learn something new about how the system works each time. These days, the networks do outsource a majority, if not all, of their production to independent production companies and only to those that have a proven track record. All you have to do is watch the credits and you will see who the major players are again and again. I have also heard that even the established production companies sometimes have to team up to get a project done. It's all about convincing the network executives that it can be done because they are the one's financing it all. Most of the major networks have closed ranks and do not even accept outside submissions for program ideas for various reasons, mostly for the potential liability of litigation that an independent may have coincidentally had a similar program concept. What they don't know or accept can't hurt them. Some of the major players like Discovery Networks do have a submission department with very strict guidlines. The link to their submission page is below. You basically will end up signing everything away by agreeing that if they already had a similar concept upon reviewing yours, you can't sue them for stealing what you perceived to be "your" concept/idea.

Some of the major players that are producing content today are Granada USA/America, GRB Entertainment, Original Productions, Film Garden, Banyan Productions, Pilgrim Productions, World of Wonder, Mark Burnett Productions, etc.. I have worked for all of these accept Banyan, Pilgrim, World of Wonder and Mark Burnett. I worked on MTV's Room Raiders as John described (I think he was referring to me because we talked about it quite a bit). Most networks do hire crews as contractors just for the length of the show. Even the producers are contracted but sometimes for extended periods for the length of the season. Most of the full time staff are key position executives like XPs, Senior Producers, etc.. Production companies save alot of money this way by not having to pay full time benefits, travel costs by hiring local crews for each location, etc..

The only real way to get your idea to the right person is to produce a short proof of concept (POC) and have an inside contact such as an agent or story producer with some pull and that knows the key players at the networks submit it. I have heard this from some very successful and seasoned senior story producers, in other words, straight from the horse's mouth!

By the way, the budgets for these types of shows are shrinking steadily so be ready for some impossible requests.

Discovery Networks Program Submissions
submissions.discovery.com
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Old March 5th, 2005, 08:15 AM   #6
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Everything that I have read and my limited experience would suggest that James is right on the money. People prefer to work with those they know and trust. Breaking in means getting to know the right people -- it's both as hard and as easy as that.

An agent who has looked at and vetted your work is probably the most likely way in.

Take a look at http://www.aeionline.com/co.html. They will take materials over the transom.
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Old March 5th, 2005, 11:11 PM   #7
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James -- yep, I was talking about you; I just thought it wasn't my place to single you out by name. I'm glad you were able to post and clarify my third-hand ramblings :)
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Old March 8th, 2005, 10:47 AM   #8
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Isn't it always the way. A lot of work to build a reputation and connect with the people who will help you succeed (by profitting from the association). Same thing in most businesses; so much good competition.

To me, makes it doubly important to think ahead with all due diligence since the investment is heavy and the outcome unsure. If it isn't apparent by now, I should reveal that I've a degree in business (in addition to having also spent some time in film school). So it's natural for me to apply a business model in order to decide whether it's all worth it. Hard to put those intangibles on paper though.

Thanks for the links.
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Old March 8th, 2005, 12:18 PM   #9
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Lorraine, have you seen this article?

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/06/mo...icle_popular_3
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Old March 8th, 2005, 03:18 PM   #10
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Interesting article.

As for using a film studies degree as a preferred basis for other careers .. hmm .. I'm not yet sold on this formula for most people.

In doing a entrepreneurial study of television for a masters thesis it became apparent that the convergence of industries and media formats - as mentioned in the article - was the way of the not-distant future.

Leveraging the creative effort and promotion of a product such as a television show with a video game or internet experience or whatever is a very good thing to do from a marketing (and profitability) perspective ..assuming of course that you do a good job in all areas.
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Old June 24th, 2005, 12:06 AM   #11
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Here is another major production company that accepts submissions.

GRB Productions
www.grbtv.com/submissions.aspx
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