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Selling your show

No matter what changes take place in the television industry, good pitching skills are always of the utmost importance. Last week's Realscreen Summit featured numerous sessions focused on selling the show and perfecting the pitch. Here realscreen compiles the top tips from the experts.
February 11, 2010

No matter what changes take place in the television industry, good pitching skills are always of the utmost importance. Last week’s Realscreen Summit featured numerous sessions focused on selling the show and perfecting the pitch. Here realscreen compiles the top tips from the experts.

Look at what the channel is already airing:
This always seems to be the first suggestion out of a channel exec’s mouth when asked what a producer can do to get a show on the air. It should be obvious – know what the channel is about. The biggest mistake producers make is to go to a channel without knowing what it is already airing. This can lead to redundant or inappropriate pitches, and can waste the time of both the producer and the broadcaster.

Bring tape
Throughout the Summit, in pitching sessions and workshops, channel execs stated the importance of bringing some tape when you pitch. Still, it’s important to bring the right sort of reel. For example, Spike TV’s SVP of original programming, Sharon Levy, doesn’t want to see a ‘flashy B.S. tape.’ Rather, make the channel feel that it needs to have your talent or subject matter on their air. The best way to do this, says Discovery Communications’ director of development, Wayne Sampson, is to illustrate with the reel the main characters, the storylines, the hook and what makes the program stand out. Consensus seems to be that three to five minutes is the perfect length for a piece of tape.

If there’s talent in your show, make sure to have a deal with that talent:
Speaking of wasting everyone’s time, if you don’t have an exclusive deal with your talent when you walk in the room to pitch, you may not have a show when the channel gives you the go-ahead.

Have a good log line:
‘If you can’t pitch the show in one sentence it’s not worth selling,’ says MTV’s SVP series development & production, Liz Gateley. RDF Media USA’s SVP of development, Mike Duffy, also couldn’t emphasize the importance of a good log line enough. However, he cautions producers not to use derivatives when pitching a show (ie. ‘it’s Cash Cab meets Survivor‘) because it takes away from the originality you should be trying to convey.

Look for more helpful pitching hints from Chris Palmer, director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, in the March-April issue of realscreen.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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