By: George Moore
One positive thing about the pandemic is that people are using the creative part of their brains. New ideas keep popping up. Do you have a great idea for a pool-related tv show? Let's face it! Before pool starts getting some regular tv-time, we won't be seeing big companies investing in the sport. Here is what to consider and where to pitch your idea(s).
First, keep in mind. What are the tv networks looking for? There are numerous ways television networks measure their shows' performances to determine whether they’re worthy of entering and then staying on the screen. Here are some reasons your favorite show may or may not be coming back later this year.
This method of measuring a show's popularity is seemingly self-explanatory. Overnight ratings refer to the number of people who watch a show live, as it airs. For decades, TV networks have used these numbers as their guiding light. High overnight ratings are good, low overnight ratings are a death sentence.
The method of obtaining these numbers, however, isn’t as straightforward as you may think. Nielsen, the premier data measurement company, installs measurement modems called "black boxes" in a select number of diverse households that are used to represent a country's population.
Out of the 118 million households in the United States — the largest exporter of television shows — that have televisions, only around 50,000 houses have these boxes measuring their viewership. Similarly, around 3,000 households in Canada have their TV habits measured to represent the 12 million households with televisions. This sampling of viewers, which is supposedly wide-ranging enough to accurately portray entire countries' watching patterns, is then calculated to determine how much of the country watched a specific show when it aired live. These days, it's much easier to measure the success/failure of a tv show. Statistics from online streams are mainly what gives the decision-makers their data.
The most important metric used to decide a show's fate from these findings is how many people between the ages of 18 and 49 — the prime audience for advertisers — watched live. Since commercials are how shows primarily earn revenue, companies will often value this number above overall ratings.
Once the overall viewership numbers come in and 18 to 49-year old viewership is translated into a percentage of how many people in the age group with televisions watched a show, Nielsen delivers the ratings to the broadcast networks. More eyeballs watching a show means a better chance to sell the products advertised in commercial breaks, so low-rated shows are typically discarded regardless of their quality.
A few years ago, TV networks would've based a show's renewal prospects solely on how many people watch it immediately. However, as our watching habits shift, so do the methods of measuring and monetizing them.
Live TV viewership has been on the decline for years and the standards for how many people need to a show for it to be popular are constantly changing. The drop of viewers over the past decade is so drastic that Riverdale, a very popular show by today’s standards, is averaging a rating 40 percent lower than the lowest-rated show of 2011.
This change has bolstered the importance of those who watch shows on their DVR or on official streaming sites. New metrics, like the "Live+3" or "Live+7" ratings, now measure how many people view an episode of a show within three days and a week of its airdate.
For some shows, this measurement can be their saving grace. A recent episode of Criminal Minds scored 0.9 percent in 18 to 49 ratings — a record low for the 13-year-old show. This rating increased by 89 percent after three-day viewership was factored in and could easily be the reason the show lives to see the 14th year.
Another huge source of income for broadcast networks in the United States is the money they get for selling shows to other networks across the world. Sometimes, if a show is popular overseas, a network will continue producing episodes even as its homegrown popularity wanes. This strategy allows shows like Elementary and Quantico — both of which are wildly popular across Europe — to remain alive despite abysmal ratings in the US.
Where do I pitch my idea?
Do you know you can actually contribute to creating the next blockbuster show with your scriptwriting skills? As a creative writer, you can sell your TV show idea and scripts online. There are a lot of production companies out there that are willing to pay money for a show idea that you just thought of. You don’t have to be acquainted with Hollywood or Netflix to make that happen.
If you have a real creative and original idea for a TV show, series, reality show, or any other visual content, you can try your luck at a few production companies that welcome pitches from the public. You could even make money, a handsome amount probably.