Film Industry

How To Pitch A TV Show: Who Do You Pitch A TV Show To?

Photograph of the blog post author, Dylan Easton

Dylan Easton

3.8.2021

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Pitching a television show is its own art form. Competition is fierce in this industry, especially if you’re not an established name. TV series get commissioned for their originality, longevity, and long-term profitability. A solid pitch will demonstrate your creative point of view as well as how your idea fits into the market. Once you’ve written your TV show, you’ve got to do your research and find the market out there for what you want to do and how you want to do it. After this, you should consult with collaborators. Once all of this has been completed, your next stage is to complete your TV show pitch. Let’s take a look at how to pitch a TV show. 

how to pitch a TV show

In this article, we will take a look at what a television pitch is and how to write one.

Be sure to stick around until the very end so you don’t miss any key information!

What Is A Television Pitch?

TV screen

A television show pitch is a comprehensive document. A typical TV pitch includes:

  • A logline or elevator pitch
  • The ‘bible’ – which provides a rough outline of where your series will go in the first season
  • A completed pilot script

Pitch documents will vary in their contents, but all should provide network executives or production companies reviewing the pitch with an idea of the show’s core idea. 

Wondering who to pitch to? You will pitch a TV show to executives working for TV production companies. 

How To Write A TV Show Pitch

There are 4 main components to include in your TV show pitch:

  • Logline
  • One-sheet
  • Series bible
  • Pilot script

Let’s take a look at each one in greater detail! 

Logline

retro tv

The logline can also be called an “elevator pitch”. This is essentially a short summary of your TV show idea and only needs to be one or two sentences at most. It is vital that this clearly demonstrates the core concept of the show. The term ‘elevator pitch’ refers to the idea that it has to be short and snappy enough to pitch to an executive in an elevator. 

A noteworthy example is Vince Gilligan’s logline for the AMC hit Breaking Bad may have read something like this: ‘A terminal high school teacher and loving father turned drug kingpin is introduced to the hostile world of illicit drug manufacture and its deadly associations.’

One-Sheet

Smart TV

This is a cross between a resume and a condensed version of your idea. The purpose of a one-sheet is to give the executives something to read after you’ve left the building. This will make you more memorable. 

Executives will hear hundreds of TV pitches per week, so the idea is that you make a good first impression with your actual pitch. The one-sheet will keep you in their minds after your first impression. 

A one-sheet should include: 

  • Your name
  • Contact details
  • Essential elements of your pitch such as name, genre, and logline 
  • One to three short paragraphs outlining your idea and what it is trying to say
  • Any other relevant biographical information. For example, if your show is about working in a mine and your father worked in a mine for 20 years, that is a good relevant detail to include.

Series Bible

TV screens

This is the most comprehensive part of the pitch. It should include details on your characters, the dramatic arc of the series and more. 

Your series bible should be no less than seven pages. You could start by including the title of the series, followed by the logline. 

After this, include a detailed synopsis summarising the entire series. This will involve what it’s about, where it is set and the main point you’re trying to get across. 

You should then include a section on the key characters in the series. You should include who they are, why they’re important and their character motivations. How do they relate to the story you’re telling and how do they interact with other characters? Do they have any personality flaws that make them interesting? 

Next, include a breakdown of the pilot episode you’re submitting. This should include what happens, where, and why. 

Finally, include a list of all the episodes in the first season. Be sure to write two to three sentences for each episode. This will give those reading your script an idea of what the general arc is (and to show them you’ve thought about the rest of the show in detail).

Pilot Script

man looking at TV's in shop window

You must submit a finished pilot script to give anyone reading your pitch the chance to evaluate your writing style. This makes it easy for them to visualize what would happen in that first episode. 

A pilot is essential as it also gives executives a good idea of how the audience will react to your show.

How To Pitch A TV Show

In this section, we will take a look at how to pitch a TV show idea to several different services. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

How To Pitch A TV Show To Streaming Platforms

Netflix loading page

Here, we will take a look at how to pitch a TV show to Netflix and other streaming services.

Streaming and cable services have become a huge part of everyday life. Millions of people subscribe and use streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO. But if you’re hoping to get noticed by these giants, you’ll first need to learn how to pitch a TV idea the right way.

Most cable/streaming services have a no-unsolicited submissions policy. This means if you don’t yet have an agent or manager, you most likely won’t be able to send them your script.

Gain Representation

The first step to pitch a TV show to almost any cable or streaming platform is to gain representation. This can be a difficult task in and of itself.

Also, it’s very difficult to pitch a TV series to a streaming, cable, or network company unless you already have a track record of working in television or film.

Originality

Netflix is something of a ‘disrupter’ in the entertainment industry. By this, we mean they’re looking for more dynamic, out-of-the-box choices. Additionally, they put less of a premium on seeing multiple season arcs than some of their more traditionally-minded competitors.

Once you have your logline, series bible, and script, you’re then ready to submit to a streaming/cable company via your agent or manager. Or pass your materials along to someone you know who works at Netflix, HBO, Amazon, etc.

How To Pitch A TV Show To A Network

multiple TV sets

Let’s take a look at how to pitch a TV show concept to a network. Unlike cable and streaming services, network TV is more rigid and traditional when it comes to pitching your TV series.

Networks actually operate on a particular schedule. This will, for the most part, be centered around the so-called ‘pilot season’. It begins with scripts ordered in January and ends with casting and production crews assembled by mid-Spring.

In June or July prior to your season, this is the time you will pitch your work to a studio. You can consider them as some sort of bank. If they like your idea, they will then advance you, as the creator of the show, the finances to produce a pilot.

This pilot is then shopped around to the networks, looking for a ‘pick-up’ to series. Networks essentially rent out these shows for one premiere airing and a few repeats. So, if the show costs more to produce than what the network will pay upfront (which is usually the case), then the studio must finance the deficit.

How To Pitch A Reality TV Show

Live TV show

Reality shows are more unique to other typical TV shows. Unlike other types of shows, reality TV is set apart due to its lack of a predetermined script or story.

Your pitch document needs to be brimming with information to communicate the particular brand of reality show you’re aiming to create.

First, you have to decide whether you are proposing an ‘Arc-Style’ concept or a ‘Self-Contained’ concept.

Arc-Style

An Arc-Style show is a long-term competition format. This is where the same set of contestants are pitted against one another and one person is voted off each week.

Examples include Love Island, Masterchef and The Great British Bake-Off.

Self-Contained

This format involves new contestants/challenges each week. The structure is limited to its run-time, rather than a full season.

Examples include Fear Factor, Undercover Boss, and Chopped.

Originality

Once you’ve settled on a format, your next step is to put together your pitch. Just like narrative television, a premium is placed on originality and a fresh voice, so it’s always wise to try tackling a subject that has never been exposed before.

What Is Included In A Good Pitch?

typewriter TV casting

A good TV pitch is well-structured, visual, and quickly conveys your show’s concept and central characters.

Start with the premise of your show. Explain the world of your show. Introduce your characters. Explain what happens in the pilot. Say it’s going to be funny, moving, or romantic. Talk about how many episodes you have planned. Wrap it up and thank your listeners.

It is good practice not to pitch specific actors or songs. This is due to the fact that you never know the relationship the producer, the studio, or the network may have with that actor or musician. Perhaps the artist you wish to use in your pilot is too expensive. 

Or alternatively, the studio could have a bad impression of that particular actor. These thoughts may pull your listeners away from the main part of your pitch: your story.

It will never hurt to put yourself in the network or studio’s position. Ensure that you keep in mind that they ultimately want a show they know they can sell and market to an audience. What creative ways can you describe your show in market-friendly terms?

Now You Know How To Pitch A TV Show

retro TV sets

So there we have it! There is everything you need on how to pitch a TV show. We’ve taken a look at everything you need to prepare beforehand, such as a logline and one sheet. We’ve also included the things you will want to consider during your pitch. 

Be sure to keep in mind everything we have mentioned above when pitching your show. You’ve spent a long time working on your show so make sure you give it the pitch it deserves. This will give you the greatest chance of success!

If you’ve got this far we’re guessing you’re involved with the film and TV industry. How To Pitch A Movie, What Is A Showrunner In TV & How Can I Become One and How To Network In The Film Industry should all serve as useful sources of information for you!

Have you ever pitched a TV show? Let us know about your experience in the comment section below. If you think your friends might find this article useful, why not share it on social media? Be sure to tag us @musicgateway!

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