Just add water

In the last month, four people-not businesses- have called our company to produce TV show pilots, digging deep into their own pockets with the hopes of making it big. I sit back and wait for the usual questions: How do you get it on the air? How do I get sponsors? How much does it cost to pay for the program air time? Will someone buy it from me? Before I answer, I must admit that without even owning a camera I produced an outdoor fishing and hunting TV program which ran for three seasons-Quite popular with the locals.

V translations DVD series image
V translations DVD series image
Now for the answers: Your local TV stations do have air time available to air your great idea of a television program. Youwill most likely have to pay (“You mean THEY don’t pay ME??”) $500-$3k for a half-hour slot, probably between 11-4pm on Saturday or Sunday. The idea is to find sponsors to pay for all this. They love being on T.V., so put in a few 30 sec. commercials (which hopefully they already have) and/or product placements and you’ll soon be good to go. The details important to smart sponsors are the quality of program, target demographic and actual ratings. You can ask the network rep about all of this-and you should before approaching said sponsor. Once you do approach them, and agree on the price, be sure to get your money. People are all aboard until it’s time for the wallet to open, then it’s a car chase. If you’re lucky, you’ll pull a “1 share” early. This is a Nielsen rating term meaning on an average day, a couple thousand people are watching your show in a million person populated city. Don’t think for a moment that just because you’re finally on TV now that you’ve made it. There are occurring (and recurring) production costs, sales overhead, and that weekly air-time bill of $2,500+. Its important to gain and hold an audience. Try running a 13 week season, re-running better episodes to get back your investment. The big money for any TV show is syndication, syndication, syndication. This means airing the show in all related markets with the budget it took to produce the show to begin with. Newcomers often find it difficult to recover their original production costs, since they tend to air only on a local level and in only one market.
Fishin' Ohio logo
Fishin' Ohio logo


6 thoughts on “Just add water

  1. Yes, this article is soo correct as I have had a number of ‘Local’ production experiences (Food Show, Real Estate Shows). Rather than pay fees to the TV station (Although the station loves you for it), I suggest finding another model in which the station must share the Ad Revenue with you. Also, the station will pressure you to “Buy” and commit to 52 weeks, I would not recommend starting with a lengthy commitment (Try to get away with even less than 13 weeks)- the financial burden is too great to sustain if one is inexperienced.

    1. Sounds like you have done this before. We have produced over 40 local TV episodes. We just might have got lucky, one local TV station is interested in selling the ad space on our Home&Garden Television show (www.theOHGshow.com).

  2. Josh –

    Congratulations – That’s great news!

    Indeed, I am also an Independent Producer as well, and have definitely been through local productions in the Seattle, Los Angeles, and Phoenix markets.

    Love the show!

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