The “pitching” process is flawed. Can we fix it?

Each year, several thousand TV content projects are submitted to television producers, local and pan-regional cable networks all around the world, as well as agents in the U.S. and increasingly in the U.K.

Part One of Three

Most of them have been prepared by people willing to enter the industry, on their own or through “pitching” contests where sometimes one or several experts listen to the proposition, usually watch a “teaser” (short video to awaken interest among the viewers) and choose one or two of the projects offered.

There are also “pitching” sessions where no winner is officially announced, but the audience includes “buyers” from different companies attending. These might later contact the people related to some of the projects and eventually become a partner in their venture or sign them for exhibition on their media in a country or region.

So far, so good. The problem is that, according to research conducted by Prensario and Private Advisor at “pitching” venues in Europe and the Americas during the past four years, the acceptance rate of these projects is amazingly low: in Latin America, it is close to 1 in 1,000 for “cold” (unrequested) approaches, a better 1 in 400 at contests, where a company specifically requests proposals from rookie talent. Experienced producers avoid this procedure.

In the U.S., according to industry executives interviewed at venues such as NATPE and L.A. Screenings, the ratio is worse than 1 to 1,000 but is more difficult to define. In Europe, the situation is no better, per data obtained from industry sources at MIPCOM and MIPTV.

Companies that invite newcomers to send projects have usually one person or a temporary staff in charge of finding hidden gems. A person holding this job commented recently that ’99.99% of the submissions are dreadful’.

Theory vs. Reality
One of the reasons for this discordance is that few candidates to future stardom are aware of the perquisites their submissions should comply with. And, the official explanations offered by the purchasing executives are vague, with many references to creativity, diversity, the need for good stories and the feeling that a good idea will undoubtedly find a buyer. If there is no buyer stunned by the proposal, it is assumed this happens because the script is not ‘well-written’ enough. Since most contestants are simply driven by their egos and beliefs, it does not come as a surprise that it’s difficult to match their proposals with the buyers’ real needs, or at least ring a bell in their mind.

The obvious result is that, despite the apparent opening to new talent and rookie players, most of the new content being produced at this time on a worldwide level by the television industry comes from traditional sources and people well known by the industry executives.
Are there chances for a real opening? We’ll explore them, stay tuned.

To see Part 1 of this paper, click here Television programming : The “pitching” process is flawed: Can we fix it?
To see Part 2, Television programming: beyond the algorithm, here
To see Part 3 of this paper, click here Fixing the “pitching” industry procedure