- How television shows are produced and developed -
Lightship Media develops and produces television specials and series through our sister company Lightship Entertainment. We have produced hundreds of hours of programming in the last 15 years that has been featured on the Discovery family of networks, ABC and in worldwide syndication.
The process of producing a television show is a complex partnership with a network or studio that takes months to complete. Depending on the type of program, it takes days or even weeks of shooting for just one episode. That is after careful development, planning, scripting and pre-production to insure that everything goes as planned during production.
Television Development is a risky and speculative game for television networks and studios simply because they are putting up hundreds of thousands of dollars for an idea that may not work. So it's understandable that networks make every effort possible to reduce their risk. That is why shows are often derivative of another show on another network, why successful talent will continue to get spin off series, and why few producers and production companies are awarded shows.
Most networks only accept submissions from recognized production companies with a track record or television agents. Long gone are the days that an idea could be pitched and sold from a piece of paper. It's incumbent on producers to prove their concept and the talent with a three to five minute pitch reel. This video needs to introduce the characters, the concept, and "the world" they live in. If it doesn't catch the attention of a development executive in the first thirty seconds, it's probably not going to sell the concept.
Every network has a team of development executives. They are intimately knowledgeable of their network and the kinds of programs that are currently working and what is not. They are the first line when it comes to pitching an idea. If an idea makes it past the first layer, it will go into a weekly development meeting with all of the other development executives including one or more people who oversee development for the network. This is another reason the pitch reel is an important tool - someone else is eventually pitching your idea on your behalf. If a program passes this initial meeting it will usually go up the ladder to the head of the network for final approval. Often, the sales and marketing teams of the network must weigh in. Remember, you might have the best idea in the world but if the sales department cannot sell it to their advertisers then it is worthless to them.
The best day is the one where you get the call for the "greenlight." But hold on there, the development process is just beginning with the network. Now a production executive is assigned to the project to oversee it's development from a pitch to a series. Often a network will agree to fund just a "test tape" or possibly a pilot before saying ok to a series. Sometimes they will commission a special based on the idea to see how it does before committing to a full series. Executives at the network weigh in on progress and sometimes a focus group decides the fate of a show.
Once all that has been accomplished and your concept is going on the air it is an incredible feeling of accomplishment. But now you have to produce it. So the real work has just begun.
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