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What are the Intellectual Property Aspects of Pitching a Proposed Television Show?

We routinely have potential clients contact us about handling the legal aspects of a proposed television show. Most of the time, this sort of inquiry involves one of two categories: (a) a reality series or (b) a minor celebrity-sponsored advice show.

These are called “strip shows” (not as interesting as it sounds). A strip show is a television series which involves minimal set design; name actors; and other high cost production aspects. This leads to the most important aspect of pitching such a television series: money. It is critical to make the production cost effective and, if at all possible. bring money to the table.

I cannot emphasize enough how it increases the chance of a series being picked up if the one pitching it has some level of financing. Otherwise, it is just another (hopefully) compelling idea that needs money to be put on the air. Great premises – especially in the reality television arena – are plentiful. People with financing behind them are not.

Another important aspect is to shoot a few episodes so that they can be displayed at syndicated television trade shows. The idea is to set up the pitch meetings before the trade shows, so that one is not attending the show as simply another producer pitching material. It is better to have made contact beforehand and set up an appointment to show one’s wares in private to a potential syndicator.

It is important to keep in mind that shooting the proposed episodes should always be done after all parties sign agreements waiving potential intellectual property ownership rights in the series. This is one of those steps that is frequently skipped because the series appears to have no intrinsic value at the outset. But that is exactly the point: one is trying to build and protect that value. Complete ownership of the rights is critical to doing so.

Comments/Questions: gdn@gdnlaw.com

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