This question comes in from an anonymous e-mail.
Should I Try to Pitch My Reality TV Idea?
Assuming that you do not currently work in television, there are a few details about development deals I think it’s important to share.
First, unless you are an experienced executive producer, chances are you will not be hired onto the project to executive produce it, and you will not have any creative control after you sell your idea. Typically, if an “outsider” approaches a reality TV company and strikes a deal and manages to negotiate an executive producer title, they are an executive producer in name only and are given very little (if any) creative input on the project once their contract is signed.
Second, pitching a reality TV idea as an “outsider” is not a road to riches. In fact, most people who sell ideas to reality TV production companies are given a very low flat rate for their idea, and they do not share in the profits of the show if it goes on to become successful and run for several seasons. So, even if you beat the odds (which are stacked against you) and manage to sell your idea, you may only walk away with a few thousand dollars. This may sound good, but given the time and energy you need devote to developing the idea into something production companies are willing to consider, it may not actually be a profitable exercise for you.
Now, though I start with some of the downsides of pitching reality TV ideas, there are some instances in which it makes sense to shop your idea around.
If you or your business are already successful and already have a following (like a large mailing list or social media fanbase), then pitching your reality TV idea may be a good idea.
Television is a promotional platform, so it works especially well for people with products to sell who already have large followings. If you’re looking to make money by selling a reality TV idea, you will make far more money by using television as a platform to promote your brand and your products than you will being paid a flat rate by a production company.
Additionally, all of the shows I’ve worked on in the past few years have been hosted by or been about people with large social media followings, and there’s no secret as to why. Television shows are expensive to produce and television networks are hesitant to invest that kind of money unless they feel like they can get some kind of return. How do they get a return? Have a lot of people watch the show. How can they ensure lots of people will watch the show? Feature people with large followings.
So, again, if you have a large following and you have a business or some products with your name on them, trying to pitch a reality TV idea could be a great marketing channel for you.
If not, I’d need to know more about what you hope to achieve by pitching a reality TV idea to give you a more specific answer. If you’re looking to make money there are easier and more effective ways. If you’re looking to get famous there are easier and more effective ways. So, what are you looking to do?
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