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                                                                     Pitch A TV Show Idea     How To Sell A TV Show Idea          

Saturday 6 February 2016




Producing Deals for TV ShowsWhen a company commits to bringing your TV project to market, they will propose an option agreement that gives them the exclusive right to sell your show to a network for a limited period of time. More people from outside the TV industry break into the business from selling a concept for a show rather than an actual longform property (script, book, etc.), so its important for us to share what one may expect when selling a concept.


Option deals for scripted projects are essentially the same as for reality-based concepts, but fees and purchase prices are considerably larger in scripted. Financial participation as well as participation in the development and production is negotiable to a point, depending on your experience within the industry and what you bring to the table in terms of the marketing of your show.


As in any industry, there are a variety of forces and factors that give shape to the legal structure and content of any deal made. A television Writer or Producer who has an established track record is likely to receive a more lucrative deal than someone with little or no experience, and most often will be given more involvement in the actual production of the show. However, there are industry standards regardless of who you are.


The following is a conservative outline of what should be in an industry standard deal from a production company making you an offer: 


[Disclaimer: This is in no way provided as legal advice or guarantee of what may or may not be offered to you by any company or person you engage in negotiations with. We strongly advise that you have an entertainment attorney negotiate any offer made to you, as there are many variables and strategies for securing the best possible deal.]


Option money:    This is an upfront payment made to you by the company who wants to produce your show. It is token money, and usually ranges $500 up to appx. $10,000. It is non-refundable to the company who pays it to you simply to retain the exclusive right to further develop and sell your show to a Network. Some writers will agree to a free option simply to benefit from the opportunity of a top production company shopping their show to networks, and to improve their resume' as a writer/creator of shows. Most production companies will have no problem offering a nominal amount of money upfront.  At the end of the option period, the company will sometimes have an option to extend, which entails paying you a bit more for the extra time they are requesting to retain your project. 


If the production company does not sell your show to a network then the show returns to you, the creator and owner. You can continue to shop your show to other companies. Many writers have had shows that have never made it to production, but have made a significant amount of cash off of repetitive options. If the company does sell your show to a network, then you will be paid a "Purchase Price" that will have been pre-negotiated.


Set-Up Bonus:    This not always included in a deal, but may be negotiated. It is a fee paid to you, the creator of the show at the time of the production company "exercising your option". In other words; you are paid this money as a bonus when the show is sold to a network. The amount varies greatly depending upon your negotiations with a buyer. At this point, the show no longer belongs to you and is the property of the production company who sold the show, and eventually the network or distributor who puts it into production.


Episodic Fees: This is the main source of revenue derived from a series. Typically a production company will offer the creator/producer a percentage of the locked per episode budget. Whatever the Networks sets as the budget per episode, you would receive a set percentage of that. Anywhere between 2 and 5% is standard, and up for negotiation. Budgets vary greatly depending on the content of the series and the network producing the show. Major Networks and Prime Time shows pay more. However, when you're looking at long-term financial gain, you hope for a successful series that runs multiple episodes for multiple seasons on any network or cable network at any budget.


Participation In Profits:    As the creator of a show it is customary to retain an interest in profits derived from the production and distribution of that show. This is paid to you by the production company through your attorney and is usually a nominal percentage of the fees paid to the production company by the network or distributor as the show is produced and televised. Again, the amount of financial participation in this area varies and can often be negotiated as leverage against any purchase price you agree to. Additionally, it is standard practice for your attorney to retain the right to "audit" the accounting of the company paying you to ensure that the percentage of profits you agreed to is the true percentage you are paid.


On-Screen Credit:     For reality-based projects, companies and networks will acknowledge the creator of a show produced, usually with a "Created by" and "Associate Producer" or "Consulting Producer" credit. For scripted projects it is more often a "Written by" or "Story by" credit in addition to a negotiated producer credit. As such, you should be able to negotiate a standard fee associated with your credit, paid per episode or week of production. These are all negotiable.









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