How do I pitch a TV show for the Travel Channel?
September 13, 2007 6:33 PM   Subscribe

How do you pitch a TV show idea, particularly if it's unsolicited?

A friend of mine and I have an idea for a show for the Travel Channel, and I'm sure that there have been plenty of other people trying to pitch similar ideas, but I'm wondering whether or not it would even be POSSIBLE to pitch the idea.

There's also the question of whether basic cable would be able to pay enough for living expenses, at least temporarily, but that is of course a secondary issue beyond simply getting the green light.
posted by DoctorFedora to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
From my personal experience (working in cable television & major production companies that produce those shows for cable television) any unsolicited mail remains unopened and shredded or returned. Unless of course it came with a heads up from someone we knew. No exceptions. But perhaps Travel channel is different. As far as a verbal pitch- unless you know someone personally there, most likely you would not get seen unless referred by an agent or a friend within the company.

Your best bet would be to become familiar with that network's heirarchy, know exactly what department you want to speak with, and be SO SO SO SO polite and KIND to whomever answers the phone- even if they are rude. Ask for an email address for someone to whom you could send your pitch. From there out it's luck. If the assistant who reads it thinks it is any good they will pass it on- even if they don't seem like they would. Trust me when I tell you this- the email they give you will probably be to someone's assistant- they are being or have been groomed to know what the network will or won't like. If it is something the powers that be will like they will pass it on. Good luck!
posted by MayNicholas at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2007

Dan Abrams wrote about how almost impossible this is.
posted by GaelFC at 7:14 PM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: It's really not that special an idea -- it'd just be "Greg and his friend with excellent camera presence and onscreen chemistry explore a country." From the sounds of things, though, it'd be nearly impossible to stand a chance at it.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:42 PM on September 13, 2007

Have you considered smaller, shorter features that you can put on YouTube to develop a platform? If it's hard for a nobody to start a show, then the first step would be to become a somebody.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:49 PM on September 13, 2007

this is where an agent would come in handy, he would the the one to do the initial pitch for you, hopefully he knows someone who will listen
posted by kanemano at 8:00 PM on September 13, 2007

The best way to pitch it might be not to pitch it at all --- instead, DIY at first, either on the web or on public access, and if the show is good, that might be your best chance to get attention from a network.
posted by jayder at 8:05 PM on September 13, 2007

Seconding everything MayNichols said. You have to get a meeting with a producer, which, unless you're a known quantity, is like getting a meeting with God while he's on vacation.
posted by Rykey at 8:06 PM on September 13, 2007

If I remember correctly, Alton Brown started on a local station, and eventually got onto Food Network when someone in charge saw a clip of his show on the web.

If you're serious about it, start small like jayder recommended. A decent small camera and a few people who know what they're doing technically, and you can put together a show to present to people, as opposed to, "Hey, people would like us, I swear." Best of luck with it!
posted by shinynewnick at 8:36 PM on September 13, 2007

I'd definitely recommend an agent.

The other possibility, and I've had a couple of friends have success with this route, is partnering up with an existing production company, and pitching the idea to them. You would become producers on the show, they would use their existing relationship with the network to get a pilot made, and you'd all make money.

Now, the problem with this idea is the production company might just take your idea, fulfill whatever the minimum contractual obligation they have with you, and make it on their own. And you'd be out on the street.

In fact, a buddy of mine right now is getting free money and executive producer credit for a show that just got picked up by the Food Network that he currently has *nothing* to do with. He pitched the original idea that went into development and turned into something else entirely, but now he gets a $3000 every episode.

If he wasn't at the same agency as the production company doing the show, he probably wouldn't be seeing that money at all, but because it's family, he gets the credit and the money, but doesn't get to actually make the show.

It's a weird, back biting business.

I had another friend pitch a reality show, team up with an established production company, and get fired after the first year because, contractually, they could.

But, in both of these cases, these were established people already working inside the entertainment industry.
posted by MythMaker at 7:07 PM on September 14, 2007

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