You are not alone. There are very many of us with brilliant ideas convinced they are destined to a great – and profitable – future. However getting your idea sold to a TV broadcaster is about as easy as getting a publisher to accept your first manuscript! In other words, it’s hard – very hard. I often get asked about programme ideas and there are other articles on this site about how to go about finding and presenting your idea.
For now here’s just some advice on what to do if you have what you believe to be a great idea for television.
How to sell a TV Idea
If you have no TV background then you need to find an established production company you can trust and ask if they will work with you on formats. They will have the relevant contacts and the experience to know if they are workable. They also have the production background which is essential if a TV station shows an interest. They will want to know that the team is capable of producing the show not just coming up with the idea.
WORRIED ABOUT SOMEONE ‘STEALING’ YOUR IDEA?
If you are concerned about a company stealing your idea you can ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement – basically getting them to confirm this is your idea before you start talking. Problem is many won’t do that and many TV companies won’t even accept unsolicited formats because they don’t want to be accused of stealing it further down the line. Truth is there are so many ideas all floating around at the same time and often uncannily similar. It can be really hard to prove where an idea started and who started it.
Protecting ideas is tricky but quiz show formats are easier because they tend to have specific elements. If you have a friendly lawyer or solicitor friend then you can simply post them a copy and ask them to make a note of the date of its arrival and keep it on file in case you need to prove your ownership later. Over the years I have learnt that keeping ideas to yourself because you are afraid of them being stolen simply means they never make the light of day. (However you would be sick if someone stole the next Who Want to be a Millionaire off you!).
An idea usually gets developed quite a lot before it ends up on screen so you also have to take into account that other people may well end up putting new ideas into your original concept. My view is trust someone experienced because it gives the idea the best chance of getting on screen. Just make sure there is an agreement that if it gets commissioned you get a percentage of the production fee and ideally a format fee for every episode transmitted in every country. If your format sells overseas then you want a bite of that too.
But being realistic there are very many people convinced they have the next ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire’ but it could, of course, be you…!
ADVICE ON PROTECTING YOUR IDEA
This might be useful to you:
http://www.lewissilkin.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Knowledge%20Articles/How%20to%20protect%20your%20format.pdf but be careful of spending money on legal devices to protect your formats. A TV company will be put off by anyone demanding they sign a range of legal documents before getting to read it. As I say they are more likely to say no thanks without reading it!
Our next article will have more detailed advice on protecting your idea and advice on how to safeguard it whilst touting it around.
If yours is more of a factual “idea” there is less chance of copyrighting it. A subject area is not an idea. A specific format within the subject area could be. This is a great site for anyone wanting advice on developing and pitching factual TV proposals: http://www.tvmole.com.
You could also join a site that encourages and supports new ideas and proposals. Sharing an idea can usually make it better and possibly lead to useful contacts. This site encourages people to work together on ideas and formats: http://www.combinedmind.com.
USE YOUR IDEA TO GET A JOB
My view? If you want to get into TV and think you have a good idea or format, use it as a calling card to suitable production companies. Not only may it lead to a job but it will also give you a chance to get feedback and maybe, if you’re lucky, some experienced support to get it commissioned.
You can find a list of production companies HERE. Work out which companies do the sort of programmes that relate to your idea and contact them to see if they will look at your idea: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/useful-links-2.
COMING UP NEXT: HOW TO PROTECT YOUR IDEA (if you are convinced it’s the next ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’!).