Steve, I’ve got a great idea for a TV show

About the author

Steve Blears is a TV producer, director & podcaster.
He's a director at Bit Famous Ltd
I'm a member of Mic's Podcast Club

Steve Blears

People say this to me quite a lot because I work in TV. They say everyone has a book in them, the same is true for TV ideas. So, if this is you, here’s my checklist before you take your idea any further.

1- What’s the idea?

Can you sum it up in one sentence?

“Two property developers help house hunters find their dream home” – Location, Location, Location.

“Four strangers cook each other dinner and rate each other to win £1000” – Come Dine With Me.

“Contestants compete against the clock to solves a word puzzle” – Countdown.

Your idea has to be simple, clear and have enough legs to fill 22 minutes (a TV half hour) or 46 minutes (a TV hour).

2 - Is your idea new?

Has it been made before? Is it very similar to another show? This is usually a non starter unless it’s sufficiently different or brings something new to the table.

3 - Who is going to be in the show?

If it’s an average Joe or Joanne they will need personality in spade loads. Unknown people who are huge characters will be considered. TV commissioners will want to see diversity but will shy away from demographics that are unpalatable to advertisers or aren’t a great fit for their audience profile. So for example, Yoof online channel BBC 3 would not favour a show featuring older people. That’s just the way it is.

New! 3.5 - Do you have skin in the game?

Where do you fit into the idea? What are you bringing to the party? In episode 2 of Pitch a TV Show Podcast, professional clutter coach Clare had her idea for a TV show picked up by a production company because she had experience, knowledge and contacts to offer. So ask yourself, what can I bring that will get this show made?

Pitch a TV Show Podcast

Do you have a great idea for a TV show? Pitch a TV show is my podcast where anyone can pitch their idea to a panel of TV professionals.

Hear all episodes - Pitch a TV Show Podcast 

Stream all episodes now wherever you get your podcasts

4 – Do you want to present it yourself?

Who are you? What are you known for? How many followers do you have on Twitter, YouTube? If it’s 1 million great. You are a shoe-in. But if you’ve got 1 million followers on YouTube why would you bother making a TV show? Commissioners will want to see you have a following or a track record and experience in successful TV Shows. Yes, unknowns are cast but have usually been on the radar making noise and gaining traction.

5 – What’s the point?

Why? What is the point? Simple question but often overlooked. What does the audience have to gain from watching this?

6 – Is it entertaining?

Would people actually watch this? Even the most worthy of documentaries must be entertaining or fascinating. No one has made an observational documentary about a funeral home because it would be a real downer. (I’d like to do one, it would be fun).

7 – Is it “Now”?

Why make it now? Does your idea tap into the zeitgeist. Is it current? Is there an opportunity that will be missed by not making it now?

8 – Do you want to earn money from your show?

Time for a reality check. Jobbing TV presenters earn around £600 for a day’s work but might work two days a month.

If you are cast as a contributor you will be paid expenses, unless you are famous.

If you have an original idea for a TV show but don’t have the money to make it you will probably have to surrender a large proportion of the intellectual rights to a broadcaster / distributor who will front the cash and the risk.

Because of this many small independent production companies are working on tight profit margins. Sub 10%.

9 – How do I pitch my idea?

If you aren’t in the TV business don’t waste your time emailing a TV channel with your idea. If you think it’s good enough, write a one page outline. Keep it simple. What’s the one line idea? Where will it be filmed? Who will it feature? What’s the reason for making it? What will the audience learn or take home from the show?

 If you are determined to pitch an idea, find someone in the business who can help you. For example the development producer at a TV production company.

10 – What if someone steals my idea?

This rarely happens. There are also very few original ideas. There’s a big chance that your “original” idea may have already been pitched by someone else and rejected.

 So those are my top tips. It seems like a series of insurmountable boxes to tick. But don’t let that discourage you. If you have a great idea. Go for it.