Most writers dream of making it into television and hitting the big time. But unless you are a script writer you probably thought it was impossible, right?
Well you’re wrong. You don’t need to be able to write a script to pitch an idea for a TV show.
And of all the ways to earn money from your writing, pitching ideas for TV shows and movies has to be one of the most highly paid.
The film and television industries are always desperate for good ideas and as writers we have an advantage over other mere mortals when it comes to pitching a proposal because we can use our writing talent to really SELL our ideas.
And television is an extremely high-paying market.
For instance, if you pitch an idea to a Hollywood studio and they decide to develop your idea into a movie, TV show or series, you can easily expect to be paid up to $100,000 - just for submitting your idea.
Some of the types of ideas you pitch can be for -
~ Drama series
~ Reality series
~ Talk/variety shows
~ Documentary series
~ Children’s shows
~ Book adaptation rights
~ Game shows
Once you have your idea for a new television show, then it’s time to write out your proposal.
How to Pitch Your Idea
There is an industry standard format for any type of proposal so you would be wise to use it. The format is as follows:
Title:---------- This is the place to put your intriguing/clever title for your show.
Genre:-------- Put the type of show here, e.g. TV Game Show, Reality Show, etc.
Logline: This should be 2 or 3 sentences to explain the basic idea and purpose of your show. The logline is probably the most important part of your proposal because if the reader isn’t attracted or intrigued, they won’t bother reading any further.
Synopsis: This can be up to 3 pages in length and it is where you write a more detailed description of your idea. Keep your description concise but also give enough detail to educate and excite the reader. Make sure you explain exactly what the viewers will see as well as your shows concept.
Before you send in your proposal, the most important thing is to first understand what NOT to do.
DO NOT write up your proposal and mail it to a television company. This is a guaranteed way to have it returned unread. And here’s the reason why:
Television companies are terrified of being sued. If they reject your idea because they’re already producing a show from a similar idea sent in by someone else, you might think they’ve stolen your idea and call your lawyer.
So it may be best to approach a television production company in writing (or preferably by phone) and tell them that you have the most brilliant idea (remember not to be modest about it) for a new show and ask how and who you should submit your idea to.
Then all you have to do is submit your proposal with a covering letter containing the words “As requested…”
You can find current contact details, including phone numbers, fax and addresses, for all UK media at http://www.mediauk.com. They also have links to their other sites in Australia, Ireland and Gibraltar.
However there are some television production companies in the UK that will allow you to pitch your idea directly to them.
The BBC. You can send your proposal directly to: Entertainment Development Team, Room 4010, BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, LONDON, W12 7RJ.
Or see more details at their website at
This website has current information of ideas their producers are looking for and information on how to submit.
All other TV companies use independent production companies. A list of the most creative independent production companies in the UK can be found on the following website:
One independent production company that is happy to receive unsolicited television pitch proposals by email is Angeleye media. You can find there full submission details at http://www.angeleye.co.uk/company/ideas.html.
Angeleye media produces shows for the BBC, Channel 4 and FIVE as well as producing programs across all media including radio and film.
ABC Australia abc.net.au/tv/independent/pitching.htm accepts unsolicited pitches to their various production departments, including fiction, arts and children.
To find out more TV companies, simply Google the name of the TV station (e.g. Channel 7) followed by the word "commissioning."
A list of International TV production companies can be foudn at boogar.com/resources/mediabroadcast/index.htm.
There is also a very useful book published by Media Guardian called Media Directory (ISBN 978-0852650592). It contains over 13,000 up-to-date contact details of TV and film producers, radio stations, publishers, agents, press agencies, newspaper editors and more.
Or if you prefer, there is a really easy way to pitch a television show idea using the internet. The TV Writers Vault (http://www.tvwritersvault.com). This is a website run by Scott Manville who is a former development executive for Merv Griffin Entertainment in the US.
Merv Griffin himself became famous after he pitched a game show idea to a television network. The show was called “Jeopardy” and become the most successful game show in television history. Griffin sold the show, along with “The Wheel of Fortune” to the Coca Cola Company for a staggering $250 million.
Now Scott Manville runs The TV Writers Vault where there are over 75 leading production companies, including Hollywood’s Fox Television Studios, using this website to find the next big TV hit.
You can pitch an idea to The TV Writers Vault for one month for a fee of less than $40 and you get discounts when you pitch more ideas. Plus there are bigger discounts for 6 month and 12 month memberships.
One of the most preferred type of proposal the TV companies like to see is for game shows. These shows are popular with TV companies because they are cheap and easy to make and attract big audiences. The really big money is in the top-rated shows that are broadcast at prime-time such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” which at its peak had 19 million viewers in the UK and 35 million viewers in the US.
And there’s big money to be earned from game show ideas.
As an example, the TV game show “The Weakest Link” was the brainchild of two people from the UK; Fintan Coyle and Cathy Dunning. “The Weakest Link” was broadcast 5 days a week in over 40 countries and it’s said that Coyle and Dunning were paid £4,500 for each edition that was broadcast.
Yet Coyle and Dunning’s original idea for “The Weakest Link” was to have 11 contestants playing together for a period of 1 week. They were playing for the prize of a holiday and each round they completed represented a day’s holiday. But only one of them would win the holiday by the end of the week, as they continually voted each other off as The Weakest Link.
This version was completely different to the show that was eventually broadcast, where each program was self-contained and the contestants played together for money, not a holiday.
So don’ think your idea has to be perfect before you pitch it.
If you’re interested in coming up with your own game show idea a good place to start is at http://www.ukgameshows.com where you can research any UK game show including the rules, history and other trivia. Some of the shows are dissected for you to study in-depth. It also provides contact details for television companies and independent game show companies.
There are other websites too where you can search TV game shows including:
Just Google "TV game shows" to find even more information.
Also watch as many game shows as you can and make notes on the types of questions asked and the shows format. Especially try and notice any strengths or weaknesses in the show. Also take note of which company produced the show.
Try to make your game show idea different to any other you’ve already seen. Your show also needs to have worldwide appeal so that it can be broadcast in many different countries. And make sure your show is structured to last 30 or 60 minutes.
Think up a really good title for your show too. The title will be the first thing that any potential buyer will see and could be the difference in your idea being read – or not.
Try and incorporate a money-generating idea from viewers. Many quiz shows, including “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” cover their costs from premium-rate calls from viewers.
So don’t think that pitching ideas to television is a closed door and only open to those who “know the right people”.
Keep inspired. Look at your life and the world around you and find fresh and exciting ideas for movies and television programs.
Because you never know; you might sell the next groundbreaking idea for a new show.