Networks – especially the major ones, will sit and listen to hundreds of show ideas per year. Some of these shows will be used for filler dates; some will be the “next big thing.” Whether you are pitching an idea to one of the big 4 networks, a smaller network, or a cable network, it is important to be prepared and know what type of ideas networks are looking for.
If you are pitching a show idea to a network that specializes in one type of programming, then immediately you at least know what sort of show to pitch. You obviously wouldn’t pitch a family drama to the SYFY network. What if you are making a show pitch idea at a network that televises all sorts of shows? It is extremely important to know what type of shows networks are looking for at the given time that you will pitch your show.
Most networks pass on good shows every year because they are looking for a certain type of programming for that particular fall season. They may contact you down the road to pursue your idea, but you may get tossed out as well. Don’t waste a show idea on a network that you know is not looking for that type of show idea.
There are 4 types of show genres that dominate the television screen. There use to be 3, but with the emergence of reality television the number jumped to 4. The 4 types of shows that dominate your small screen are shows based around doctors, lawyers, cops, and now reality. If you are pitching a show to a network that is based on any one of these – or any combination of them, then you immediately set yourself up with a better chance of getting picked up. Lets take a look at some of the most popular shows on network TV. We will use the big 4 networks as a base model, even though this concept usually travels to cable as well.
Doctors – Grey’s Anatomy and ER are perfect examples. Both of these shows are highly popular. Grey’s Anatomy is still on air, ER ran for over a decade and during that time never dropped out of the top 20.
Lawyers – This carries more weight when cops are involved as well. Shows such as the Law and Order series really bring forth the popularity of using cops and lawyers in the same show.
Cops – This is a genre that is wide open. Networks are always looking for good cop related shows, as are the viewing audience. You can see it in the ratings, as well as the number of cop related shows that are put out each year. CSI (all of them), NCIS, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, the list goes on and on. Whether you love cops or hate cops, you are willing to watch stories about them on TV.
Reality – The past several years has given us a reality TV overdose. Be that as it may the viewing public loves reality TV, therefore networks love it as well. If you are pitching some sort of reality show, then you already have a step up on the competition. The viewing public is willing to watch reality shows on just about anything.
Of course there is always the exception. Other shows not based on any of these genres will break through. A perfect example is Lost. Lost started a SYFY phenomenon that everyone tried to equal. The problem is, SYFY is not as popular on network TV. The reason a show like Lost made it is because of the unique storytelling they produced.
Allow this article to be a base – or guide for you, when you are thinking about trying to pitch a show idea to a network. Make sure you have everything set-up the correct way. You never want let a good opportunity go to waste.
To download this article as a PDF > Ideas Networks are Looking For