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Selling to the networks

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chicagoshootr
Selling to the networks
on Jul 24, 2007 at 6:02:51 pm

I'm working on a multi-part HD project. We want to finish the first of 11 episodes and pitch it to the networks. We are entirely self funded through completion of the series. My questions are these...

What do networks (pick one if you know) generally pay for a completed one-hour HD program? A series?

If we create a DVD series from the program, is that usually part of the network deal? Do we split revenues from the DVD?

Would the network offer completion funding for the project if we weren't self-funded?

How does PBS differ from the cable networks in their business dealings?


Sorry if this has been asked before, but I couldn't find it all in one place.

Thanks-
John

J Cummings
DP/Chicago
http://www.cameralogic.tv


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walter biscardi
Re: Selling to the networks
on Jul 24, 2007 at 6:36:43 pm

[chicagoshootr] "What do networks (pick one if you know) generally pay for a completed one-hour HD program? A series?"

there is no general number. All networks are completely different with the budgeting. The one constant is a newer show will get a much lower budget than an established show, unless you have a very popular, established host.

If you do have a host, all networks I know of will sign a separate contract with the host and the production company.

[chicagoshootr] "If we create a DVD series from the program, is that usually part of the network deal? Do we split revenues from the DVD?"

Depends on the network. One network I work with owns each series 100% so the production company earns zero royalties once each episode is delivered.

[chicagoshootr] "Would the network offer completion funding for the project if we weren't self-funded?"

Networks have a set budget for each series. If you need money beyond that, you would have to seek it yourself. If you're looking for a sponsor placement type of deal, those are also governed by the networks.

[chicagoshootr] "
How does PBS differ from the cable networks in their business dealings?"



You have to fully fund the series yourself in most cases.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.

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David Roth Weiss
Re: Selling to the networks
on Jul 25, 2007 at 2:18:13 am

[chicagoshootr] "I'm working on a multi-part HD project. We want to finish the first of 11 episodes and pitch it to the networks. We are entirely self funded through completion of the series."

John,

I would strongly advise against this strategy. Completing more than one episode of your series before pitching or taking it to market will more than likely put you at unnecessary financial risk and weaken your position in the marketplace as well. A completed series without prior distribution in place will, in most instances, signal buyers that your project can be easily acquired for pennies on the dollar, because they will sense that you are a very hungry seller.

Put the shoe on the other foot for a minute. When a network (or buyer) creates a show in-house, they typically commission a pilot. This is done for several reasons: first, they can see if the pilot generates interest; second, they can get feedback on the pilot before proceeding; third, they can retool and make adjustments to the remaining episodes based on that feedback; and five, they can use the results to get high-flying advertisers aboard to boost the value of the series.

As a seller, you should model yourself after the buyer's business model as much as possible. In other words, try to get maximum interest in your series with the minimum outlay of cash. If your series is in fact viable, a buyer will pick it up based on your pilot episode, and should, if you negotiate properly, get you the dough to finish the remaining episodes without your having to lay it out.

I'm not trying to say its easy to sell a series based on a pilot -- I am saying that its a whole lot easier to get your money back if you can sell it based on a pilot. If you lay out the cash yourself, you will be very, very lucky to get your investment back over the life cycle of the series.

So, my advice is, give yourself a chance by creating a really great pilot. If your luck isn't good with the pilot consider yourself lucky and create a new strategy. You can always finish the series later with your own dough and hope for the best if all else fails.

David



David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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chicagoshootr
Re: Selling to the networks
on Jul 25, 2007 at 12:47:33 pm

Hi David-

That all sounds like very good advice.

This project is a little different because it will go forward even if doesn't get picked up by a network. Its an historic learning series...sort of a "Walking the Bible" funded by the donations of...and targeted to...a very large mainstream religious group. Of course, a national premiere would be a great way to kick it off...and an opportuinity to possibly recoup some of the costs...but would only be icing on the cake.

The fact that the producers need to retain primary editorial and distribution control sort of muddies the waters somewhat.

So...knowing all that, would you think your initial pilot theory still looks like a good stategy?

Any thoughts?

Thanks guys-

John







J Cummings
DP/Chicago
http://www.cameralogic.tv


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Selling to the networks
on Jul 25, 2007 at 4:54:42 pm

John,

A sponsored religious series with a single point of view would certainly alter the playing field. Does your series have historical appeal to a general audience, as WALKING THE BIBLE does, or does it strictly appeal to a specific religious group or audience? The former draws from broad audience with hundreds of millions of potential viewers, while the latter would be a significantly smaller audience.

Even though the overall strategy for a religious series might be very different from all other series, I would certainly suggest that making a pilot might still be a good idea. At least you could establish a solid template that would help to unify the various episodes.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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