How to Pitch Your TV Show Idea

Have you created the perfect concept for a show, maybe even begun writing or working on it? You know your idea is a great one, but now the challenge of convincing a network or streaming service to see how great it is begins. Places like Netflix, HBO, and Amazon have countless show concepts pitched to them, often by established and well-known people, so they have developed a critical eye for what they’re looking for and what works. Be prepared to put long hours and hard work into something that may not pay off in the end.

Rejection comes fast and often in this niche of work, but if your idea is really great, you just need to learn how to present it to find success. You will need to rely on those who already have their foot in the door, so you’re not just trying to impress the networks and streamers, but those who are getting you to the point of pitching your show idea.

Find Something Unique

Every idea has been done in some way. The trick is to find something that is not common on current shows. Search for some aspects that will make your show stand out and be remembered. Your idea is more likely to stand out if it’s filling a hole in the industry. People like new things, something to stir up the dull and consistent shows they’ve become used to. New concepts and ideas grab viewers’ interest and pull them into the story more than predictable and expected plots do.

Your idea needs to incorporate something new and exciting to achieve that unique goal.

Work Something in for Everyone

Many shows have a focus audience that they’re geared toward, but often that focus is a bad thing. One way to increase your show’s success is to broaden the expected audience as much as possible. The more people it will appeal to, the more viewers it will have and the more money it will make. Having some focus on a variety of characters or mixing targeted emotional responses will bring in more viewers and will result in a happier network or streamer.

They’re more likely to invest in your show idea if they think it will bring in more people watching.

Keep It Simple in Your Pitch

People who work for major networks or streaming services don’t have a lot of time to spend on every Tom, Dick, and Harry with an idea, so keeping your pitch concise and understandable is important. You should be able to get the concept across easily so that they can grasp it right away. Your logline needs to be short and to the point, but also have that attention grabbing hook that shows the depth of your show and its characters.

Don’t just give them a quick summary with no thought, but try to fit as much emotion into as short of a space as you can.

Know What They’re Looking For

Researching the networks or streaming service you plan to make a pitch for your show is one of the best things you can do to prepare. Different places will be looking and expecting different things, so knowing what they want will help you meet their expectations and increase your ability to wow them.

You will be better prepared to help them see how great your show idea is. Knowing what to expect from them will help you feel more confident as well, allowing you to focus more on the task at hand.

Partner With Someone More Experienced

If you’re new to this line of work, you may want to consider a partner. It can be tough to understand all the ins and outs of how to pitch a show idea in the best way possible, so having someone with some previous experience on your side will help you be better prepared. It can also be a challenge in itself to even get an opportunity to pitch your show idea.

Partnering with someone who has been around the block will help you get your foot in the door and give you access to priceless advice and information. While you should choose someone who you can trust, you shouldn’t try to figure it all out on your own.

Aim for Franchise Capabilities

Networks and streaming services want to make money. This is a business and the most they can get out of a show, the more likely they are to take it on. Shaping your show idea to become a franchise is a great way to show them that you’re prepared for the long haul of a successful series. How would you brand your show? Don’t be afraid to dream big and let them know that you expect complete success.

Showing confidence in your show idea will allow them to see the potential in it as well and make them more likely to take on your idea.

Use Templates, Packets, and Checklists

There are so many tools out there to assist you in preparing your show pitch to a network or streaming service. Use what you can. You may think it’s unnecessary to put together a pitch packet or keep a checklist, but the more you account for, the more you will be ready to answer the network’s or streamer’s questions and concerns. It may be that you didn’t even consider something that was on a checklist.

When trying to prepare yourself for a pitch with a network or streamer, anyone would get nervous. One side effect of nervousness is forgetfulness, so those tools can really help you prepare.

Make It Personal

Having some sort of personal connection to the show will help you put in the work needed to make it a reality and will come across better during your pitch. Your emotions and sincerity will matter to those listening to your pitch, making it more likely that they will feel more connected to your show concept as well. Even if your idea doesn’t seem connected to your life in any way, reveal how you came across the idea or some reason why you were able to come as far as you have.

Be Ready to Summarize the Whole Story

While your logline needs to be concise and simple, you also should be ready to offer a summary of the entire story, at least through the first season. The networks or streaming services may want to get the whole picture, so you should prepare a basic summary of it all. The last thing you’ll want to do while pitching a show idea is ramble or stumble over your explanation.

You should have the entire story summarized and ready to go. This will show them that it’s all planned and they just need to agree to take on your show idea.

Know All the Details

While you want to keep your pitch concise, you also need to be ready to answer any variety of questions. You need to know where the characters go after the pilot and maybe even after the first season. You need to know what major changes will take place in future episodes. Having a grasp on where the story is going will show the networks or streaming services that this is not some random idea you had one day. This is a fully fleshed out story with the chance to grow.

Make Sure You Have a Pilot

This should go without saying, but you really need to have a pilot script ready before you make your pitch. You may think your idea is so great that it sells itself, but you have to remember that while you can see it clearly in your head, others may and probably won’t be able to envision it as well. Letting them see the pilot and setting the stage for them to understand how it starts the whole series will help them see the big picture and visualize your concept.

Practice Makes Perfect

Just like an actor rehearsing lines, you should be practicing your pitch to a network or streamer. In a sense, you will be putting on a performance. You will be nervous, that’s just a given. What you can do is practice multiple outcomes and get to know what you’re going to say so well that even if the pitch doesn’t seem to be going well that you won’t be shaken and you will be able to deliver your concept professionally.

Let Your Own Excitement Shine

While you want to be prepared and know exactly what you’re going to say, don’t be afraid to let your own enthusiasm show. People generally feel excited when someone else is, so allowing your excitement for your show concept to shine will help them to feel it as well. Emotion is vitally important with capturing audience attention, and while making your pitch your audience is the network or streamer.

You’re presenting them your pitch which is sort of like putting on a show, so let yourself be happy and let your personality come through.

Keep Everything Organized

There is a lot that a network or streamer may want to see or ask about when you pitch your show idea. If you try to present a show pitch that consists of batches of notes and haphazard information, you’re going to look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Keep everything organized. Take the time to make it clear and neat so that if someone wants to see some particular piece of information you have it ready.

The organization will save you time and will also save the network or streamer time, something they will no doubt appreciate. It establishes you as professional and reliable, and shows respect to those you're dealing with.

Consider the Finances

Making a how is all about the money. Networks and streamers focus entirely on how much they think your show idea will make them. Too many times someone has a great idea that would cost an arm and a leg to create, but the concept is a chance or has been played out. You need to think about the financial side of things as well if you’re going to be sure your show idea takes off.

Pitching a show that would require a great deal of special effects will be harder than pitching one that takes place in one common space.

Final Thoughts

One aspect of trying to convince a network or streamer to take on your show idea is to be open to any criticism or rejection and turn it into something constructive. Talk to other trusted people about it and see what their opinions are. Understand why your pitch was rejected to know where it may need to be improved. You may have a great show idea, but you also need to be flexible and willing to change the story.

Remember, you didn’t create this idea for yourself, but you created it so that it could be brought to life and made into something real.