Television shows start with ideas. These ideas are pitched to network executives, who agree to give the show the green light, or a shot. The network will then order a certain number of episodes. Getting your idea in front of a network executive is not easy. Network executives will listen to ideas that are pitched from authorized people who adhere to certain guidelines. These guidelines help protect the network from copyright-related lawsuits. When creating an idea for a show, try to be original or find a show that revolves around a current popular theme.
Write a treatment. A treatment is a synopsis or summary of your show idea. The treatment should feature the title of the show, the basic premise (e.g., a suburban family or single father raising three kids), location of the story, description of characters and possible plots and situations, and any other essential information pertaining to character or plot development.
Copyright the treatment. To protect your idea, copyright the treatment. You can copyright a treatment through either the Writer’s Guild of America or the U.S. Copyright Office. Both will provide sufficient copyright protection, and allow you to register docx-, doc-, text- or pdf-formatted treatments online. The cost to register with the WGA is $20, and the cost is $35 to register the treatment with the U.S. Copyright Office. (All prices as of 2010.)
Research the networks that you want to submit the idea to. When researching, look at what type of shows are currently airing on that network. This will help you determine the type of audience that the network is attempting to appeal to. For instance, submitting an adult-oriented script to Nickelodeon would be a waste of time. Also see if there are any current shows airing that might be similar to your idea on that particular network.
Find out the submission guidelines for that network. Some networks will allow direct pitches and unsolicited materials. Many require that the treatment or pitch be submitted by an agent, producer or entertainment lawyer.
Obtain representation. The advantage of using representation is that many established entertainment professionals have the connections required to obtain a meeting with a network executive. To get representation, you will need to first submit your treatment to the agent or producer. Each representative will have submission guidelines of their own. The Writer’s Market or the WGA are valuable sources for finding agents and looking up their submission guidelines. For production companies, locate the website of each one or call to get their submission guidelines. If he accepts you as a client, the representative will then become responsible for pitching your treatment to networks.