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Old November 14th, 2009, 08:02 AM   #1
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How do I pitch a show to a cable network?

Not sure if I phrased this properly, but if, as a Producer/Production Comany, I want to sell a not yet produced series to a cable network such as Discovery, A&E, etc, what are the general steps that one would take?

Thanks in advance.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 09:21 AM   #2
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Shoot a pilot.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 09:45 AM   #3
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Is shooting a pilot pretty much a requirement for TV series, as opposed to just writing a treatment or that sort of thing?
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Old November 14th, 2009, 12:41 PM   #4
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It sure would be easier to shop if you had a show, especially if you will be competing against someone who does have a show for them to look at.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 01:47 PM   #5
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You don't need to shoot a pilot, a 3 minute demo will do (if you can't hook em in 3, you can't hook em in 30).

But I agree, making a sale is much easier when you have something visual.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 02:48 PM   #6
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I'd certainly be willing to shoot a 3-minute demo. It's a visual medium, so I guess it only makes sense to make a visual sales pitch. I wasn't sure what the standard procedure was.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 03:47 PM   #7
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I always get yelled at for being negative and crushing people's dreams, but you need to know exactly how Networks develop projects.

Read these:

Selling A TV Ad

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/taking-c...roduction.html

I need some info on starting a TV ad agency

Shooting a pilot for the Travel Channel - Need portable gear

What exactly is "shooting a pilot"?

And here's the most recent example of me being chastised for telling the truth about how the business works:

How to pitch a movie idea

Even though not all the posts are applicable to your specific suituation, I think after reading them all (not just my brilliant and pithy observations, but also those from others who have experience working for networks/studios/agencies and the like), you'll get a good idea of how this all works.

The bottom line is most Networks do not take outside pitches. Shooting a pilot will most likely be a waste of time, effort and money as most Networks will not look at your stuff if you don't have an agent, for fear of being sued. (And technically it's not a "pilot" if you haven't signed a production agreement and they're paying you. It's just a spec show.)

By all means pursue your dream. But do your research so you know what you are getting into. Realize that an idea itself is not enough. Be sure to go to the Networks' websites and read their policies on unsolicited material.

And yes, there are always exceptions to everything, so please let us know if you find a way to beat the system. And I would actually love to hear stories of how others have accomplished this, so we can all learn if there is a better way. The rules are changing all the time: Just this week CBS announced it was putting into Development a sitcom based on the Twitter site "S(tuff) My Dad Says" (not the actual title). It should be noted that they assigned veteran show-runners as Exec Producers, and it's unlikely that the original creator will have much input. But he'll probably get paid, even if the show never makes it to air.

Last edited by Adam Gold; November 14th, 2009 at 04:27 PM.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 08:40 PM   #8
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Thanks Adam, and all, for taking time to repsond. Adam, I've read a lot of your posts and found them informative. I also don't have a problem with your directness.

Sounds like my pitch should instead be made to agencies, is that correct? Any tips for that?

BTW, with so many cable networks out there, it would seem there is a huge need for material.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 01:22 AM   #9
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I'm not sure I'd go out pitching the actual idea to agencies at this point. If you're a writer, you write a bunch of spec scripts and get a directory showing every agency in LA and NY, phone each agency to see if they're taking new clients, and send your pile of scripts to anyone who says yes. I'd do something similar as a producer/director... make a really good reel of clips and after targeting any agencies who will agree to look at your stuff, send copies to them all. Once you have an agent, then you tell him or her the idea you want to pitch and see if they can get you some pitch meetings.

There are probably a million ways to skin this cat, but that's the most common path. Of course, there's always the end run -- leverage any contacts you could possibly have. Maybe someone you know works for one of the Networks or a Studio or an agency -- now is the time to call in those chips and see if they can get you a meeting. Any meeting.

Your goal here is to prove that the experience you have will translate to your new project, so the clips you put on your reel should parallel your new idea. Remember, the purpose of the pitch meeting is not only to make them love your vision of the idea, but to make sure they think you're the only one who can do it. And, of course, that they will make money, so you need to do some research. A knowledge of Nielsen ratings, demographics and advertising rates will be beneficial here. Know the difference between rating and share, what CPM and Audience Flow mean, and what the threshold for success or failure is... because your competition does.

Your agent will have ideas on this as well. So that's the first step, I think.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 06:41 AM   #10
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Adam, when looking at shows like Man vs. Food, Bizarre Foods, Dirty Jobs and the like, was the talent also typically the originator/producer of these shows?

Also, do you have a website? I'm curious about your current business.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 08:18 AM   #11
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The talent is typically found by the producer...

Just keep in mind that, as an individual with an idea, you are throwing your hat into a ring already occupied by some pretty big players who are known quantities to the networks. The chances for an individual with a good idea getting a hearing with a network executive, based on a trailer or pilot, tend to be small.

...not saying it is impossible, of course, but the networks tend to go towards known quantities.

And, as the bigger studios and network executives are fond of saying, there just aren't that many original ideas out there. Chances are, somebody has already thought of -- and discarded -- your idea, or else some version of it is already being pitched by a bigger studio.

The reality is, there is an extent that they don't even want to hear your ideas, because if they are already working on a parallel idea, they open themselves up to lawsuits by hearing it from you, and you claiming that it was your idea. I've heard that expressed a few times. Even if you get a hearing, you will still have to sign a bunch of disclaimers to that effect.

You can get direct access to acquisitions editors at several conferences (Jackson Hole symposium and Silverdocs come to mind, and there are others, but you'll do better getting their attention, as everyone else has said, if you have an executive summary and a visual piece (trailer or pilot...). As an individual, that is the route that I would take.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 11:37 AM   #12
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My kids love the show 'Cash Cab' on the Discovery Channel - which is Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal etc. on wheels. Classic example of a unique delivery/rehash of an old idea.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 11:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cascio View Post
Adam, when looking at shows like Man vs. Food, Bizarre Foods, Dirty Jobs and the like, was the talent also typically the originator/producer of these shows?
Meryem has it right; typically the talent is "packaged" with the other creative elements, but this is done by the agent. Usually all the elements are from the same agency so they can get a "packaging fee." But if you know some well-known talent and can get them to attach themselves to the project, that might help open some doors, especially if they have an agent.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cascio View Post
Also, do you have a website? I'm curious about your current business.
Working on it, but as most of our work is with minors and uses materials that we have the rights to but are forbidden from posting on the Internet, it'd be pretty silly to have a video site with no Video on it. But we're trying to figure that out.
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Old November 16th, 2009, 03:27 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
My kids love the show 'Cash Cab' on the Discovery Channel - which is Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal etc. on wheels. Classic example of a unique delivery/rehash of an old idea.
Very often the game format rights are bought. A number of big UK players have been doing extremely well from selling these rights around the world.

If you've never made a programme series for a main cable networks, it could be a good idea to get involved with a production company that has. I guess this will depend on your contacts, but you should be working at expanding these anyway. Unless you've some track record it's unlikely the main cable networks will be interested. Also, they just won't look at 30 min pilots unless you've got all your pitch documentation together and they're totally hooked by that.
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Old November 16th, 2009, 08:40 AM   #15
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As with making your own film, it's a long shot. But if you want to pursue it by all means. I'm pretty sure Versus channel has a method of submitting shows on their website. Search around if you feel it's a show that could potentially air on their. Again, it's a long shot, but a shot.
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