Every one of my content client’s goals is to get their show on a US network, first and foremost. This is when I ask the question, “Are you willing to sell your rights away?”
Many stop short and say “Hell NO!” If they have done any research they will then throw “SpongeBob” and other popular shows in my face.
I then have to tell them the facts of life. I tell them tales of creators for the last decade’s most popular shows, like Stephen Hillenburg, Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh, Greg McCracken, John Kricfalusi and Klasky-Csupo. I tell them what they actually owned and what they actually got in the deal. Some of these people got some really good deals, but none where they owned a majority of the show.
Don’t get me wrong. I look to these creators as heroes. They are having their dreams fulfilled and are making some money along the way. They are making their money doing something they absolutely love and wake up each morning with the zeal and passion to create some of the most iconic content in the last 20 years. But are they really making their money from the content or from producing the content?
First we have to know what the US nets are looking for.
The US networks development and programming executives look for properties that have “legs.” This could mean a property that had a prior life like “Power Rangers” or “Ninja Turtles.” They look for properties based on popular brands, such as book titles, famous people and/or toys. Barbie is a great example of a brand that moves from one shelf to another time slot.
You think of “SpongeBob,” “Rugrats,” “Powerpuff Girls,” “Ren and Stimpy” and now “Phineas and Ferb,” as well known branded properties, but some executive fell hard on a network programming desk to get these shows green lit in order to make them a brand.
Development executives will tell you stories of the pleading they have done for a show and they will tell you about the many shows they thought were just right, only to have marketing and programming put the kibosh on it all. And each creator is humbled by the experience.
But what is the deal the networks are offering today?