If you want to know how to pitch a TV show, preparation is key. The common assumption is that the pitch process is all about “selling it in the room.” It’s not. In the words of Sun Tzu, “every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” You have to sell it long before you walk into that room. Using our TV show pitch template, we will cover tips and techniques to help you craft a strong TV series pitch. By the end, you will know how to pitch a TV show.
Watch: How to Pitch a TV Show Idea
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What you need for a pitch
When you walk into "the room," you'll need a few essential materials. Sure, the idea is burned into your brain and you know the story up and down — but that's not enough.
First of all, if you've landed a pitch meeting, your idea needs to be fully developed. The first lesson in how to pitch a TV show is to have a TV show to pitch! If you jumped the gun and need to take a few steps back, don't worry — we've created an entire masterclass on writing and developing a TV show.
Now that you're ready to pitch, let's go over what you'll need. There are three elements that you should have in-hand before stepping through the door: a logline, a show bible, and a pilot.
The logline is the simplest and most direct sales pitch. It is a one-to-two sentence summary of your entire story. Sound easy, right? But writing loglines is deceptively difficult so start practicing.
- Stranger Things — When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his three friends must confront terrifying forces to get him back.
- Ozark — A financial advisor drags his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks, where he must launder $500 million in five years to appease a Mexican cartel.
Let's explore loglines a little further with this breakdown.
Crafting a Logline • Join the Masterclass
You should also invest some time learning how to create a show bible. The show bible is an opportunity to flesh out your idea and to prove those executives that you've done your homework.
Here's a really cool show bible example for Montauk, which would eventually become a little show you may have heard of: Stranger Things.
This video explains how show bibles work in greater detail.
Creating a Show Bible • Join the Masterclass
It's one thing to pitch a TV show, it's another thing altogether to actually write one. Writing a pilot, you've successfully taken this idea and put it into a viable form. The logline and show bible simply suggest an idea — the pilot turns it into a reality.
Read some pilots for The Office, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Game of Thrones to see how those successful shows got started.
Generating a Pilot • Join the Masterclass
These elements qualify as the "content" of your pitch but now we need to discuss your "presentation" of it. In the next section, we'll provide some tips and strategies for presenting the perfect pitch, including some Q&A's with executives and producers who have seen it all.
PITCHING TO A NETWORK
How to pitch a TV show to a network
The short answer? Come armed. What does that mean? Visuals. Spoken words and words on the page don't have the same kind of impact as images.
Want to really know how to pitch a TV show idea well? Bring some strong art with you. Make sure some kind of mood board, or even preliminary storyboards, are part of the development process.
But visual aids aren't enough — you also need to be able to adapt to the countless variables you'll encounter. Here are executives Charlie Ebersol and Susanne Daniels explaining how modifying your pitch works.
Pitching starts with asking questions
There is a ton of content out there so knowing your audience is very important. When you approach the question of how to pitch a show to Netflix vs. Hulu vs. HBO vs. ABC, keep this in mind.
Here are some executives discussing how they like to be pitched. As you'll see, they each have their own ideas on how to pitch a TV show so just remember there is no single guaranteed method.
Know who you're pitching to
Spend less time memorizing your lines, and more time doing an 'advanced scout' on who will be at this meeting. Use IMDb! What else has he/she produced? Where else have they worked? What does this company have on their slate?
Tailor your pitch towards the company as best you can. What types of ideas do they seem to like? Can you end with a question they might be able to help answer? You want to tee up a collaboration.
WORK THE ROOM
How to pitch a TV Show in the room
We've covered some broad strokes, some essential tools. But what about how to handle the room itself? Learning the actual art of the pitch? If you want to know how to pitch a TV show to Netflix, you need to learn how to handle being “in the room.”
If you used your show bible template, you know all the elements of your show already. So, why can't you just send them the show bible? It's about interacting with them as people, getting them excited about the project.
How do we know what it's like to be in the room if we've never been in the room? We can start by getting to know the people you'll be dealing with. This Hollywood Reporter Roundtable brings together some of the top executives in TV and streaming to lay their cards on the table — how they approach their job and some of the challenges that come with it.
The more you understand their position, the better
We've heard from executives on how to pitch a TV show. With these tips in mind, it's time to start putting together your pitch. To get started, we've created a TV show pitch template that will guide your presentation with the elements that you'll need to have ready.
Pitch Templates Work
Using a TV show pitch template
Below, you can download your free TV show pitch template. Use this template to lay out your pitch plan. In the next section, we'll walk you through each step in filling out this TV show pitch template.
Freebie: TV Show Pitch Template
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Pitch Template Instructions
Working with the pitch template
Now that you've downloaded the template, let's go over the various elements and how they work. From the format and logline all the way down to the synopsis and episode breakdowns.
Mention a few key details about your show. Is it cable or network? Ongoing plot or episodic? Half hour? Hour-long? Single or multi-cam?
Who is it about, and what happens in their life that sparks the drama that will create a compelling series? Learning how to write a logline is important because the process is more difficult than you think.
Describe the basic outline of the show's concept. Think of this as the logline with a little more meat on its bones. What's the set up for the television pilot? Where does the show go from there? Why is it sustainable over the course of many seasons?
Go a little deeper in this section. Talk about the show's primary themes. Bring up future seasons. Mention tone, mention some of the fun stuff like style and design.
You'll want 2-3 sentence breakdowns of 5-10 episodes, including the pilot. You do not need to mention all these in the pitch. It's good to have these episodes on hand and in your mind so you can rattle off a few.
Make sure the episodes are all a little different so you can convey that your show won't feel stale or formulaic. Stale and formulaic are not words you want associated with your how to pitch a TV show process.
This TV show pitch template is designed to give your pitch a roadmap. Being "in the room" can be intimidating and there are endless variables that might come into play and throw you completely off balance.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Every pitch is a chance to learn
You're going to hear your fair share of "No's" even if your ideas are fantastic. There are factors beyond your control dictating what can or can't be bought or developed by any given network.
For as long as you are a creative producer and a writer you will need to pitch. It's something you can always hone and perfect. Also, learn to laugh at the experiences you have. Your battle scars will define you. They'll make you stronger, and they'll be fun to recount. Trust me.
Producing a proof of concept
Sometimes, pitching a TV show idea needs a little more than mood boards and a show bible. Sometimes, you might have to actually film a proof of concept first. In this original docu-series, Making It, we follow filmmakers from the original script through the entire pre-production process. From budgeting, casting, location scouting, and hiring crew, this series will get you a jump on mounting your own production.
Up Next: Making It: Pre-Production Series →
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I have a pitch for a three-part mini series, which isn’t a part of my own writing plans. I simply want to sell the idea to a production company. Do I still have to write the pilot myself as opposed to providing outlines for each episode? Thank you for your help.
I have a pitch for a mini series. I simply want to sell the idea to a production company. Do I still have to write to write the plot or episodes myself?
Thank you for your help.
If you pitch an idea, does it stay confidential?