TV Broadcast Rights
I have co-directed/co-produced a 90 minute documentary that has caught the attention of a major cable network. I was contacted regarding the availability of the film's US broadcast rights. What is the average amount paid by a high-end cable network for such rights?
Personally, I have no idea. I just wanted to say congratulations.
You seem to have come a long ways since you started posting here.
You know I'm born to lose, and gambling is for fools, but that's the way I like it, baby. I don't want to live forever!
There is no standard really. If you are represented by an agent you can generally get more, but if they are simply asking, just start with a number you feel comfortable with as an initial bid.
Or you can say "Yes the rights are available, what is your proposal for payment?"
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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First off, congrats! That's awesome you are getting interest.
Secondly, there is no average and unless you have some leverage (like a Michael Moore or Errol Morris level name behind it) don't expect much. Does your doc already have other forms of distribution in the US (DVD, streaming, VOD, etc.,)? If so, that will probably lower the amount you'll get from the network. Whether or not they want it exclusively and the duration they want the rights should also be taken into consideration with regards to the price. There is a huge glut of doc content which is great for people who like watching docs but not so great for people who are selling docs.
Also, I assume you already have clearances for every frame of audio and video in the doc as well as E&O insurance? No one will distribute your doc if you don't have all your legal ducks in a row.
Let me also chime in with congratulations on hitting the Big Time. You HAVE made impressive progress over time.
My rule of thumb for negotiations is: first person to loses. Second rule is: they have to believe you will walk away from an unsuitable deal, so after thinking thru the numbers, keep an imaginary minimum in mind and do NOT go below it. Below that number, you are giving money away, not making any.
Wait and see what they propose, then deeply examine the sample contract for hidden gotchas. Something you want to know for sure is when the rights revert back to you, and what the situation is for renewing the rights, as well as if there is anything in their proposal like a non-compete, that precludes you re-selling this stuff later, to another network. See if they try to "own" your ideas to use on any follow-up sequels. If you are dealing with the "very disco channel", they have kind a of a reputation for tough negotiation and deals that don't always favor the producer, is all I'm going to say.
Beware of any advances paid against conditional sales: this happens to authors in publishing and what starts out as huge payday can become a major loss, with debt for you, after the ninja accountants do their stuff.
Look at if they want to lock-up access to and marketing of the people, businesses, and locations you put together. (Think about George Lucas' merchandizing deal on Star Wars with Fox, or more recently, the merchandising rights on Duck Dynasty junk). You will want a piece of that.
Sometimes you can make a deal to own a piece of the commercial time within the broadcast. You could use that spot time to promote yourself, or sell ad time yourself, for some product or service. It's another revenue stream.
Find out what you get per unit for sales of the DVD/ BluRay dubs and any internet streaming playbacks.
Lastly, don't get too greedy; you've basically hit the lottery this time, your next project may not be so lucky. Don't price yourself out of the game on this deal, only because you didn't want to leave too much on the table. Keep your temper; patience and diplomacy are your weapons here. Get enough to make this worth your while and to help you do the next project.
I know I'm late to the party, but this might help others.
These pdfs show prices paid per hour for dozens of markets. You need to sign up to download.
As well, start looking at distributors and getting into the MIPs (miptv, mipcom etc),and NATPE etc. no reason to limit your work to one station/network/territory!
Good luck, I'm working on post now for a self produced doc and it is not easy!!