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What not to pitch

Most networks tell producers that they want to hear a good pitch for a story well told. However, producers generally don't know what the networks aren't interested in until they're in the middle of their pitch. At the Summit yesterday, Atlas Media Corp, founder Bruce David Klein asked a panel of top execs from MSNBC, MTV Networks, National Geographic Channel International and A&E about the kind of programs they don't want to be pitched.
February 4, 2009

Most networks tell producers that they want to hear a good pitch for a story well told. However, producers generally don’t know what the networks aren’t interested in until they’re in the middle of their pitch. At the Summit yesterday, Atlas Media Corp. founder Bruce David Klein asked a panel of top execs from MSNBC, MTV Networks, National Geographic Channel International and A&E about the kind of projects they don’t want to be pitched.

Rob Sharenow, SVP of non-fiction alternative programming at A&E said that not every exciting pitch is automatically right for the network and listed Intervention, Dog the Bounty Hunter and Growing Up Gotti as examples of properties that shouldn’t necessarily have worked. ‘They had no business being on our network,’ Sharenow said, and yet they became some of the biggest hits for A&E. One thing he can say for sure is that sex shows are hard to sell.

Aaron Meyerson, SVP of alternative programming at MTV Networks, said the worst thing to do is to give him something they already have on air, so knowing the network is key for any pitch. Meyerson then explained his reason for coming to the Realscreen Summit was to find different voices for potential shows.

Pitching exclusive access to a law enforcement figure is not the way to go for MSNBC. ‘Everyone is bringing me access to this agency or this agency, [or] the FBI, and I’ve got news for you, it’s not exclusive,’ said Elise Warner, director of development.

At National Geographic Channel International, the biggest mistake is to take culture and eco-friendly to the extreme. Janet Vissering, SVP of strategic development and co-finance at NGCI gave three good examples of what not to do: ‘A three-part series on smoldering and incense, the wonderful world of clams and I know we’re all eco-friendly and organic, but if I see another show about poop… we’re done with that topic.’

Take note, pitchers.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.

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