26 March 2014

Pitching a television show - from BVE Talk 2013

Broadcast Video Expo (BVE) was on in London recently and yes this post is a little late (its been a busy couple of months!) however I wanted to share it with those of you who might be writing or pitching tv shows.

I'd love to pitch a tv show, have several on our slate but with the upcoming career break (going around the world for 14 months! woo hoo!), I'm just taking care of projects and finalising others before embarking on anything new.
However for those of you who are wanting to start pitching "the next big thing on tv" on....

For those of you've who've not been BVE is on once or twice a year showcasing the latest cameras, equipment, suppliers and also a huge wad of interesting talks. All for free. Just register online.
I cannot believe I've not attended before!
This talk I went to was brilliant, especially for people who are interested in pitching TV projects ie. narrative, factual documentaries, docs, live shows, ec.

Inside the mind of the commissioners (my annotated notes)

Philip Edgar Jones
Director - Sky Arts

 Justin Gorman 
Head of Entertainment - Channel 4
Kate Maddigan 
Commissioning Editor - ITV
Sean Hancock 
Commissioning Editor Entertainment - BBC 

Q: What do the channels look for?
Sky - the first question for them is "why is it worth paying for?"
Sky is subscription based, so they are supply demand style of channel, unlike the other channels sky has to fulfill a certain amount of subscriptions and keep those subscribers happy. Very reactive to their audience.
They are looking for a show that changes the game like big brother.

Channel 4 - People want to watch what they know, warmth.
Working with Derren Brown in features.
They don't make nasty telly, but always talking about the warmth. Story of warmth, nothing spiteful.

They are willing to take risks, canceling Dancing on Ice for something new. Commissioning new middle eastern shows, repackage, recreate them. Ie In Patient.

"Finding new ways to telling the universal story"

How do you pitch?
The Idea - Production companies/ producers should start with the idea first. Nothing beats the idea and all the commissioners agreed that if the idea isn't strong it doesn't matter who is attached.

Do the work - put together your package to sell it. Don't just use loads of PowerPoint slides, practice your pitch on friends and remember to keep it simple. Don't go in with all your ideas. Choose your best few.

Do the research - what is this channel lacking? What do they need? How can you position yourself so they need your show? Why would your show work best on their channel - whilst everyone knows you pitch to other channels they want to feel special so make it specific, then they have less chance to turn you down.

Saying no- make sure they have no chance to say no, it's so much easier to say no, so make it hard. Make it really difficult for them to dismiss your idea.

Let them help - dont do everything. Present your idea, script, or story. Do it well, then the channel will help find & attach the talent.

Are they risk averse?
Sky is very much customer interst based, yet they want to see something different. Sky don't want to do what everyone else is doing.

BBC take less risks on BBC 1, therefore they have great talent attached to manage risk. BBC 3 is all about risk. So do pitch things that take a risk and do something new.

Smaller companies think about what you can bring to the project, what is your USP. Pitch only a few ideas, only what you are passionate about. Don't come with a list as long as your arm, they know you're not passionate about all of them. Make sure your pitch is consise and to the point.

BBC - Recently had a great pitch, where someone came in and identified a problem area that they weren't fulfilling in their current lineup. So advice is to do the research and know which channel you are pitching to and identify an area that's not being served and show them the solution.

Channel 4 - They like to see the brief, the characters and a synopsis. Make sure you love it, know it and think about it. Make sure it's right for Channel 4.

*Always see what the channel line up is, and get familiar with it. Make sure you know who you are pitching to, and are familiar with their shows.

What are they looking for?
Sky: intelligent quiz, comedy, next big reality show. Fact ent. Sky Arts celebrate new talent and old great people.
Channel 4 : Studio & game shows, big live show, reality / game show, e4 looking for something for 10pm slot, pop up events for charity.

Top Tips:
  • Don't sell
  • be passionate
  • One line pitches are the most successful pitches.
  • Know the area
  • They will know in 10 secs if they want you.
  • Don't lead through a PowerPoint.
  • Don't give them a easy reason to say no.

"Best television is stuff that touches you in everyday life." 
Philip Edgar-Jones 

Head of Entertainment at Sky

I hope this is helpful to some of you out there, and do let me know how it goes if you pitch to any of these guys! 
and Good luck.