Search form

Mind Your Business: What Networks Want

Mark Simon tells you what networks REALLY want.

Mark pitches a network.

What do networks want? Great shows. But what makes a great show varies depending on which network you talk to, who you pitch to and when you talk to them.

It’s kind of like trying to figure out the perfect thing to say to that really hot girl. What does she want to hear? Is she interested in the bad boy? Does she like adventure? Is she ready to settle down and act like an adult? Or does she just want to party and get her freak on?

I may not know what women want (who does?), but I do know what networks want.

Unfortunately, they usually don’t.

They know what they want after they see it. Not before.

Years ago my wife Jeanne and I helped open the Nickelodeon studios in Orlando. It was a great time, everything was new, we were all in on a building new and exciting brand. But all the concepts were coming from NY and LA.

A couple of times a year the network would host a video Town Hall. The network president Geraldine Laybourne and her executive team would gather the three main network facilities in LA, NY and Orlando together for a live video chat.

Part of the chat, was to share with us lowly Orlando denizens (we felt like the ugly step-child of development) what they were looking for so we could pitch new ideas to them. We all got so excited! We’d team up and put pitches together. We’d rush off to pitch the next hit show that was exactly what they were looking for! We felt so special that we had the inside scoop and we were all going to be rich and famous with our own shows on the air!

And then the next show they would buy would be from an outsider that had nothing at all to do with what they said they wanted. Nothing. Nada.

What the hell?!

We learned a few things from that experience.

One, ideas are seldom as strong when you try to fill a niche instead of creating something you are passionate about. You are more likely to succeed if you develop and pitch a show close to your heart or close to your funny bone.

Two, the networks only know what they want when they see it, so show them your best stuff and hope it hits them as strongly as it hits you.

Three, never develop an idea to match what the networks say they are looking for.

Your idea should at least fit their brand (do your homework) and there will be times when you already have the perfect idea that you love the fills the need they are looking for. Fantastic.

But if you force an idea to fill a need for a network, it will feel forced and won’t be as strong.

One of my clients was pitching an animated monster show at TAC last week. It’s a really good show with great designs. One executive told him the monster genre was over and no one would buy the show.

This week (as of this writing) Hotel Transylvania, which has about every monster ever created, opens and it’s the number 1 movie and set September records. Recently Universal announced a huge DVD collection of monster movies. One of the most anticipated movies coming soon is Pacific Rim, a monster movie by Guillermo del Toro. There’s a new take on Godzilla coming out. They are rebooting the Mummy franchise. And so on…

The monster genre is over? Hell no.

Moral? The monster genre isn’t over. It’s just that the executive didn’t want that one pitch. But someone else might.

Actually, no genre is over. Any genre may be tired or overused for a while, but then someone will create an outstanding concept and reinvigorate a genre like Pirates of the Caribbean did for pirate movies.

What do networks want? Great ideas that you are passionate about, even if they tell you something different. Believe in yourself and go for it!


Mark Simon, is a story artist, director and the animation producer for Tooth Fairy 2 and the story artist on a feature he can’t talk about yet…You can get his FREE download of the 7 Biggest TV Pitch Mistakes at