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Selling a Series

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Selling a Series
on Jul 7, 2005 at 10:16:55 pm

I recently returned from a two-month motorcycle trip across Asia along the Silk Road:

I shot 80 hours of HDV footage with an eye to making an adventure/travel series for HD broadcast. I have years of experience shooting and editing documentaries but this would be the first series that I have ever produced and sold from concept to completion all by myself. The footage is fantastic and I have enough equipment to do the show myself, but I

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Dan Brockett
Re: Selling a Series
on Jul 11, 2005 at 3:22:26 am

Hi Sterling:

I checked out your website, what a cool idea! I bet you have had some awesome adventures on your bike.

Your plan seems basically sound to me. While I have never produced a series, I did direct and produce two A&E Biographies and some History Channel stuff last year so I do have at least a small bit of TV experience.

My main advice to you would be that the chances of you "selling" your series directly to a broadcaster are slim. In the TV business, it's all about relationships and who you know. Chances are, you will have to sell your concept to a production company that already has a business relationship with the broadcasters you are targeting. I am not saying that it is impossible to sell your show directly to a broadcaster, but it will be very difficult to get your show in front of the real decision makers. IMHO, 3X1 hour shows is not enough to merit serious interest from most broadcasters, they look for series with a lot of episodes but I suppose you could go back into production to shoot more espisodes after getting a commitment on your existing ones.

The "reel/pitch" idea is essential.

The most important bit of advice I can give is to GET AN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER! You are entering shark infested waters and basically know nothing about the business end of the television business. In order to even submit the show "reel" to ANYONE, you will probably have to sign an agreement that basically says that essentially, the potential broadcaster can copy your concept without being sued by you. The broadcast outlets have to do this to protect themselves from being sued constantly by disgruntled producers who feel that the network ripped off their idea. It happens all of the time.

I wish that I had more specific advice but I have not sold a series, just produced and directed a few epsiodes for bigger prodcos.

I would also target potential broadcasters and start doing your research on them. Have you checked the Discovery Networks producers portal? You can at least see what all of the Discovery network channels are looking for on there. Just realize that your chances of selling them a show from submitting to them from the website are almost zilch, you really MUST submit through an established vendor or they will not deal with you.

Best of luck,


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Re: Selling a Series
on Jul 20, 2005 at 6:39:40 pm

A great place for you to start maybe NAPTE's Producer Bootcamp&pitch pit. It is put on by the National Association of Television Programming Execs. You can learn how to properly pitch and network at the same time. I am in a similar boat as you and will be there. Check out the NAPTE site for info.

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Re: Selling a Series
on Jul 26, 2005 at 3:01:46 pm

Dear Sterling,

My husband and I completed a pilot for a travel series a few years ago. We took our work to the Reel Screen Summit. This annual conference (usually in DC) was tremendously helpful in both educating us about the kinds of programming various channels were looking for and establishing contacts in the programming dept. of each. With the pilot we were able to get immediate feedback on whether or not there was interest. Its very clear that there are a lot of travel programs out there looking for a home and the secret is finding a good match between what you are selling and the existing threads on a network. (Our program highlighted people journeying around the world on a "volunteer vacation". While we received a lot of praise for the visual quality of our program and most networks were not interested in that angle- at the time they were on the hunt for "Extreme Travel" or "Makeover Travel". Since that time we've been busy with other work and haven't really tried to take it any further. We did get a call from one channel that liked it and wanted to air it "for exposure" but they had no budget to pay for even the most basic costs to cover the music rights.

As far as budget, the price per episode seems rather low to me. I would think about finding an agent/distribution house who can help you market the work at a better rate. It would also be helpful to have someone else do the legwork if you are busy with a 9 to 5 job. It takes a lot of persistance- and connections are good to have. You can also make contact with these people at Reel Screen.

We also went to NATPE but found Reel Screen was more focused toward "documentary" programming, it was a smaller crowd and gave us more opportunities to meet with decision makers and fellow documentarians. We also took the train over to Discovery outside of Washington and met with several folks out there. (Travel, Discovery Times, etc.) In the end we decided that the kind of program they were interested in didn't match what we had so we just shelved it rather than try to fit a square peg into a round hole. When programming trends change perhaps we'll pull it out again. We'll see.

Why not produce this as a one hour program rather than a 3 part series? An 80:1 ratio would make a smokin' one hour doc don't you think? I don't know if this was helpful at all, just thought I'd share our experience with the whole thing. Good luck to you! I hope your program is exactly what they're looking for!


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