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How to craft a kids' tv pitch the studios actually want to hear

Got a brilliant idea for a tv show? Read on.

Let me get my credentials out of the way: for a decade I worked in kids’ tv and film for the biggest entertainment family brand in the world. My job was to understand what kids want. What they want to watch. What they want to wear. What they want to read and listen to. How they want to play. Where they want to go. How they perceive the world around them and what they dream for themselvdes and their futures. And then bake all of that knowledge into tv shows, films, marketing, merchandise, and experiences to make a profitable company billions of dollars.

But the real action in entertainment, just like in any other industry, is in the start-up scene.

The passionately inspiring, truly meaningful stuff: that’s happening outside of the big corporate bubble. So now I spend most of my time helping independent companies, producers, and brilliant creative minds develop and position their ideas to the kids’ networks, studios, and financiers who can actually get their stuff made.

And I want to see more brilliant ideas. I know they’re out there, bubbling under the surface. Maybe it’s the start of a script buried in your laptop, or a few bullet point notes on your phone. Perhaps you’ve got a full outline, character bios, episode synopses, the works. Wherever you are in the process — whatever you have — here are four tips to that can guide you to that warm handshake offer in the production exec offices that dreams are made of.


1. Know Your Audience:

There’s a lot of new research about Gen Z out there. Read it. Start with this cheat sheet we put together to understand how they grew up in very different circumstances from Gen X and Millennials. And to reach them, you need to understand what makes them tick — and embrace those differences. Diversity. Family. Teamwork. An entrepreneurial spirit.

These are globally-minded kids who feel a massive weight of responsibility for themselves and the world — but at the end of the day, they’re still kids.

They play. And depending on what age your show is intended for, they may be really into the idea of good vs. evil — or comedy — or music and performance. Dig into it. Google top ten lists of brands, bands, and entertainment. Do some primary research: if you don’t have kids of your own, ask your friends what their kids are into. Go to Target and see what they’re actually wearing these days. Be curious. And be thoughtful about the details.

And in the midst of all this, don’t forget the parents. Parents have a tremendous amount of influence over what their kids watch. Know what they want for their kids and see how you can bake that into your show.

2. Know the OTHER Audience:

When you’re pitching a TV show you have two audiences: the kids who will be watching it of course, but you’ve also got to consider also people sitting across from you at the conference room table — or, if you’re lucky, in the cushy chairs of an executive office.

Research the studios, networks, and platforms to whom you plan to pitch.

Understand their core values — what sets them apart from their competition? What are they actively promoting about their networks? What are their runaway hit series and are there any creative commonalities and trends you can pick out?

Whatever bubbles up and resonates with you — reflect it back in your creative idea. Make the tweaks to bake it all in. And focus your pitch efforts on the studios that best align with your show’s look, tone, and values — because they’ll be most excited about it.

Have an idea that doesn’t feel like a good fit for any of the major kids’ networks? Never fear! Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube are all actively acquiring and producing awesome kids’ content. These are great studios to pitch because they’re still developing their own brand voices; they’re experimenting with what works for their audience; they’re taking risks. I mean, just take a look at what Netflix is up to!:

3. Know (and embed) the Consumer Touchpoints:

Studios and networks aren’t just looking for awesome over-the-air content.

They are looking for big opportunities.

And by that, I mean more $$$. Yes, shows that get bigger audiences so they can renew their cable carriage deals at a higher rate — but there are many, many other revenue streams that help bolster studios, networks, and platforms and make them major bank, like:

>online & digital extensions >games & apps >books & magazines >live experiences (concerts, theater, theme parks, etc.) and of course… >merchandise!

Think about all of these things. How can your show extend into these categories — in ways that Gen Z actually wants? How can you bake it in and make it all iconic and ownable?

(Also: Consider retaining some of these rights and working with an expert in the space like Retail Monster to maximize them. At the very least negotiate yourself a good chunk of the licensing revenue. Seriously. Don’t miss out on this!)

4. Know Your Competition:

Even if your idea is totally original, you’ll be exploring topics and trying to occupy space where other shows already play. It’s important to know what these shows are and why they’re successful so you can understand what makes them work creatively — and make sure you’re ticking those boxes too.

Let’s take the example of superheroes. There are the well-established, classic superheroes from the DC and Marvel universes, of course. But then there’s humor-based Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Preschool-targeted PJ Masks. Less traditional superheroes like Miraculous Ladybug and even edutainment-focused Wild Kratts. Where would your idea fit into this superhero ecosystem? And how can you leverage their successes — but stand out as new and different?

The studios will expect you to know all the intimate details of what else is out there, so you can speak to why your idea is better. Because it is!

At the end of the day: always use your gut. Your instinct is your creative genius. But once you have the seed of your idea?

Research the hell out of it.

If you’re ready to turn your dreams into reality but you don’t know where or how to start, give us a shout. This is the stuff we love to do.

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