The Development Deal
If you are one of the lucky ones to get through the doors of the mouse house or the green glop networks to pitch, you will soon find some of the nicest, most compassionate people. They will listen, care, comment, give advice, give creative notes and really truly love your property.
These are the development people. They are the ones that will fall on the desk of programming to get your property on the air. But what does getting your series sold mean?
Most creators have visions of merchandising and licensing in their heads. Dollar signs dance around in their dreams, in hopes that Nick will take their property and make it a number one hit.
But what do Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network want? They want the whole thing, all of it, all rights, all merchandise and all licensing. Remember, the US government granted them the privilege in 1994 with the Fin Syn Act (See “Money, Money Where Are You?”). Since they are in the driver’s seats they can ask for it all.
What does this mean for the creator? Did this happen to the “heroes” of animation, like Stephen Hillenburg? Yes, it did and still does. But thing are not that grim.
When you are just starting out, you have no reputation. All you have is your sharp wit, quick draw and your affable personality. You have no way of proving that this grand idea has what it takes to grab an audience, with the exception that your friends and family think it is the best series idea since “SpongeBob.” You and your fans might be right, but how are the networks going to trust your word on this?
Between the pitch and the development exec loving it, the network needs to have a slot to fill, and it may be only one slot. And your idea better fit what they are looking for. At this stage the odds are still against you. This property must have “it” all in plain sight: A great, fun story that targets that magical slice of the audience, cool character designs, toy potential, etc.
The development exec will pound on the programming and marketing desks, letting them know the commitment they should make for this series. Programming and marketing will have to do their own research and convince themselves that this idea could make it with their audience.
All of this activity is usually done under some kind of an agreement, be it an “option” or some other contract. But that takes this series idea out of the market place while the execs are diagnosing it. Once the network doctors are finished with it, it might be green lit or it might be given back to you with so many notes that it might be untouchable.
What if it is green lit? What’s in it for you?