Here’s how it works:
– A cable television channel puts out the word to production companies that it is looking for something to bolster their 13-16 teen advertising revenue
– Production companies come in by the boat loads, pitching show ideas
– Cable Channel picks a handful for development
– Short treatments are created, sometimes short mock-videos of a segment
– Cable Channel greenlights their favorite
– Production Company makes a pilot
– Cable Channel test pilot with various audiences
– Cable Channel requests re-shoots and re-casts based on numbers
– Production company produces 2, sometimes 3 version of the pilot
– Pilot tests well, cable company orders a tentative batch of episodes, say 3. They cut their first check. (this is important. Cable company is only out money paid to employees who run this process, production company has paid all other expenses with deficit finanance)
– Production company produces 3 episodes
– Cable channel runs the 3 episodes and tracks audience response
– Cable finds response great, orders 13, 26, or some number of episodes.
– Cable company makes it clear it now owns the show, and can hire any production company to produce it, if the originating production company is deemed wanting in any way.
– End game – Production company makes it’s money in the margins of production, the cable company owns the show outright, and leverages it’s copyrights into all the markets it can get into.
So MTV, VH1, History Channel, Comedy Central, etc. have made up approximately Zero content. All original programming concepts come from the production companies. Picture American Idol where the channels are the judges, the production companies are the contestants and the award is that the winner gets to have their property owned by the channels, and the channels may or may not continue employing the talent, even though the channels can use the talents image and production piece into the distant future.
We made it to the finals. More on that next time.