How To Get Ratings

If you don’t get ratings, you don’t survive….

Saturday morning, Silver Spring Maryland and Eliza Booth, Head of Marketing is talking to the Travel Academy Class about how marketing and programming weaves together.

There aren’t too many people in the Discovery Communications building at 9AM on a Saturday.

Our students are here, and so is Eliza.

She is here because the network is dedicated to educating the new TJs not only in how to shoot and cut, but also in what the network needs to make their shows a success.

Yesterday, Matt Gould explained what development is looking for. Today Eliza explained how the channel promotes and markets their shows.

As soon as the class ends, grads will begin uploading their videos to the network website.  But they won’t be working in a vacuum. They’ll know exactly what the network is looking for… and buying.

The whole concept behind the Academy is a kind of focused Youtube.  It’s Youtube tied to a goal – producing content that the network wants to buy. And they do want to buy it.  The commitment to making this work is very very deep.

No one has harnessed the raw power of User Generated Content in such a focused way before.

But we are doing it now.


27 responses to “How To Get Ratings

  1. Times sure are changing. There was a time when networks used to pay you to submit ideas, now you have to pay them so they can listen to your creative ideas. Progress or regress, which one?

    Suggestion, copyright your idea first.

  2. Excellent post Michael – Here’s to the Academy shooters taking this information and using it to its fullest advantage.

  3. Dear Nino,
    I guess that although you have been a cameraman for a long time, you have never really pitched sold a show to anyone.
    There is no point in copyrighting your idea. First, ‘ideas’ are not protectable. Second, every network today makes you sign a release that indemnifys them against just such a thing before they will talk to you. The last thing they want is you pitching some concept, they say ‘we have that in production already, sorry’ and when it comes out you sue them for ‘stealing’ your ‘idea’.
    Nope. Not how the business works.

  4. Back to the playground Michael?

    Sure Michael, try to tell that to any member of the Writer’s Guild. I have over 40 synopses registered with the WGA. You register them as a one page concept and the cost for non member is about $30. If it’s unique you have legal ground if someone would try to bypass you. I went down this road many and many times before. Do you have the money to afford a legal action should someone steal your ideas? That’s a different story, most likely you are screwed unless you are fortunate enough to make it to the WGA membership, then they’ll take up the fight for you. I told you that one of my hobbies is to write scripts and screenplays, I’m what’s officially known as a script doctor. If that’s what they are looking for established writers will buy our concepts for a fraction of what they’ll get after they re-write the script in their own style; some of my script concepts went for made for TV movies and some went for series episodes. Officially and for credits script doctors do not exist, this is the way the business works. Even with the releases that you sign with networks, registering your work will still give you some muscles. The problem is that there are very few uniques concepts left out there.

    Also before you sign a release let an attorney take a look at it, you know damn well that it is one sided in favor of the network. As a VJ I would be even more careful. Even if you have a good concept you’ll never have the skill to create any full program yourself, regardless what Michael says. If it’s real good they’ll give it to one of their regular production companies but you’ll never know until a year later you’ll see something similar on the tube. Trust me on this one, I worked on dozens of TV series and I’ve seen the pain. It’s a dirty business and getting dirtier by the day. The point that they are basically charging you to get your ideas should tell you something.

  5. That’s nice Nino
    Could you point us all to one series that has aired that you personally created and sold in this way?

  6. You just don’t get it Michael. I’m a Director of Photography and not a cameraman, see if you can get it right, write it down this time, I told you what the difference is. Producers come to me before they go to any networks. They show me the budget and it’s my job to make it photography viable. I have to create the shows. We are not talking VJs here. I was the one that had to assemble the right talent and match it to the budget. If I don’t do it right that show will not make it past first base. Remember, we sell pictures. After I do my home work then the executive producer will make the pitch to the clients.

    I stopped providing this service because there are too many incompetent idiots calling themselves producers out there, they are more interested in making quick money than in long range projections. And the marketing part of the business is getting real dirty, I’m very happy to get hired for the photography and as a production consultant, that’s where my strengths are, I make money for other people by telling them how to reduce waste and run more efficient productions without in any way effecting the visual quality of the product. If you think that’s easy then you try it. Good pay and no stress, I had high blood pressure at one time too. I can tell you every phase of how to market a show because I was the one behind the scene doing most of the critical work.

  7. OMG Nino – you have got to be kidding!!! I’m literally laughing at your latest ranting. Are you for real?

    The notion of patenting an idea is ludicrous. That’s like saying you’re going to patent the idea of using a shallow depth of field to isolate your subject from the background when shooting content.

    Just when I think I can’t be surprised by your detractor type rantings, you come along and say something like this – you sound desperate and almost paranoid of the coming changes being brought on by the Solo VJ paradigm.

    Michael said:

    Could you point us all to one series that has aired that you personally created and sold in this way?

    Yes, please show us the complete end to end package you have had broadcast. You’ve just stated:

    I worked on dozens of TV series

    (that I marginally believe based upon your rantings) – were any of these projects one of your ideas you pitched to network executives and had accepted???

    I doubt it.

  8. Cliff, is not patenting is either copyrighting or registering, that’s what you do with intellectual properties. If you don’t know the difference get back to the books before you open your mouth, you are making an even worse fool of yourself.

  9. Anyway Michael, I admire the clever way that you got out of the main core of the subject. The fact remains that you and the travel channel are actually charging people to submit their ideas, that’s a new height in low. As I said, this business is getting dirtier by the day. You are trying to cleverly disguise a pile of s**t by putting whipped cream on it, nice try but once you remove the top layer of cream underneath is still a pile of s**t.

  10. Yeah yeah yeah Nino – Blah blah blah – you know everything, that’s why you’re here.

    I continue to look forward to your ever increasing hostile diatribe about how great you are and how everyone else who ascribes to the new vision of VJ’ism is wrong.

    No matter what you say here, no one currently sees you with any amount of credibility – only someone who feels it is his duty to disparage Michael, myself or anyone else who doesn’t see things your way.

    What part of you having no credibility don’t you understand???

  11. Cliff, if only you knew how much getting credibility from you really means to me.

    Maybe in that pea size brain of your one day you’ll understand that what I’m doing is trying to prevent fool like you into believing that there’s a future in being a VJ, because there’s none, nobody is buying your work and nobody is hiring you to do any work, and nobody will, simply because your work sucks. Now if you were smart, and you are not, you would try to get some training and and improve yourself instead of believing that what you do is the future, believe me man there’s more to life than kissing Michael’s a$$, something that you do so well.

  12. Sometimes Cliff, Michael must read your posts and think “If you want to help me Cliff, don’t help.”

  13. I looked up “no credibility” in my dictionary and what a surprise!

    There’s was a picture of Cliff!

  14. “The whole concept behind the Academy is a kind of focused Youtube. It’s Youtube tied to a goal – producing content that the network wants to buy. And they do want to buy it. The commitment to making this work is very very deep.”

    I’m sorry Michael but the more that I read this the more I can’t stop thinking of how low can a cable network sink to implement these tactics in order to extract money from the public. I seriously doubt it that it was their idea, looks like your signature all over this one. There are many ways that serious ideas can indirectly go to the networks, without the need of paying to get your concept to the executives.

    Long live the Barnum’s theory of:
    “A fool and his money are soon parted”

    The Travel Channel it was one of my favorite but lately there’s very little intelligence on their shows, maybe that’s the type of audience that they are going after but traditionally these changes occur when good producers take their work somewhere else because the network do not want to pay fair rates, and that’s a Catch22. If the network don’t air good programs they don’t make enough money to pay for good programs.

    I don’t how you dream these things but every GOOD network has a backlog a mile long of good potential shows projects, getting ideas has never been a problem, there are just not enough hours of programming to implement all the good ideas. Trust me, there’s plenty of talent out there that’s burst with ideas and for them getting to the network is not hard at all, in fact most networks invite producer to submit ideas.

    See the Food Channel, (that I believed they turn you down once?).

    “1. I have an idea for a new Food Network Show. Where Should I send it?
    Food Network appreciates your interest in suggesting ideas, but we accept series and specials proposals only from television production companies with national or major market production credentials. If you are a production company, please send us your credentials and a history of your production experience only. After reviewing them, Food Network will determine whether or not to send you a release form with a request for further information.
    Do not send any pitch ideas or proposals at this time, as they will be returned unread.”

    The Food Network BTW raised their standard of acceptable formats.

    Good network can not and will not deal directly with every Dick and Larry off the street, they just don’t have the time to teach how REAL productions works on a long term show series. Most people have an idea but sustaining the ideas for a series is another story, you need a series of good ideas. This doesn’t mean however that everything is lost, production companies who create series will listen to ideas, so if you have one contact directly the production companies, and the best thing is that you don’t have to pay them to submit your idea. Look at the credit of every show and your contact is right there. But I bet you don’t tell this to your potential VJs.

    Let me tell you why shows fails, it’s because of short sighted producer than can not sustains long range concepts, and you are a textbook example. Take you “5takes” series. The first years it was all over the Travel Channel, then each new series started a steep decline, the last one was a disaster, although you refer to as a success, of course you do. The problem there was that all shows were exactly the same with different backgrounds. I told you once before about your cookie cutter productions. If you are supposedly so great (your words) how come that the TC do not implement another of your ideas?

    So let’s suppose that one of those who paid to be there comes up with a good idea, then what?

  15. Dear Nino
    With all the spare time you have on your hands, you should at least get the quotes right. Thomas Tusser said “a fool and his money are soon parted”. PT Barnum said “there’s a sucker born every minute”.

    I am glad to see you are also using your free time to peruse the Food Network site. You probably noticed, while you were there, the very tight release you have to sign with them for any ideas you submit. Well, you just tell em that you have registered everything with the WGA and that you are having your lawyer go over all this stuff before you sign it. I am sure that will speed the process with them.

    As for your belief that networks only deal with established production companies, I can only imagine that were you the head of Random House (pretty unlikely but go with me on this one), you would turn down an unsolicited manuscript from JK Rowling (google here), as she was not with an ‘established’ company.

    No, the times they are a changing. Cheap gear, easy to use edits means that a lot more creative people can take a shot a making stuff. And high time too.

    By the way, STILL waiting to hear about that successful series that you made up, sold and then produced and go on air. (Or are you just talking out of your hat)?

  16. P. T. Barnum
    From Wikiquote
    Jump to: navigation, search

    P.T. Barnum (5 July 1810–7 April 1891) was an American showman who is best remembered for his entertaining hoaxes and for founding the circus that eventually became Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
    This People article is a stub. You can help Wikiquote by expanding it.

    [edit] Unsourced

    * A fool and his money are soon parted.

  17. “No, the times they are a changing. Cheap gear, easy to use edits means that a lot more creative people can take a shot a making stuff. And high time too.”

    And I’m still waiting for you to show us some of these shows.

    I’m also waiting for this
    “Anyway, about all this work and all this unlimited potential, can anyone actually show any web site that has been paying for independently produced VJ videos? Or any web site that has been hiring independent VJ photographers to produce videos for the web?”

    and for this:
    So let’s suppose that one of those who paid to be there comes up with a good idea, then what?

    without mentioning any VJ that would have has the guts to come on your blog and answer questions.

    Got to go, break is over, I get back to you on the rest.

  18. Nino – FYI: here in the US the biggest (highest paid) food journalist is Anthony Bourdain.

  19. Sidebar:

    Have you seen “That 70’s Show”

    That’s my idea. My life. I grew up in rural midwest, just like the show. I wrote a “treatment” about growing up specifically in the 70s… with my friends. And sent it to a huge Hollywood agent/producer. The treatment ends at 1980, just like the show. My dad was a WW 2 vet…just like the show. My best friend had a foreign exchange student staying with him…just like FES in the show. Lead character named Eric…. just like me. I starting writing in 1995, contacted the agent with idea in April 1997, sent treatment to him… and the show comes on the air in August 1998. Hmmm.

    I like to entertain the idea… and tell people… that show…is my life and my idea. It might be true, or just a coincidence. Who knows. I don’t have the legal power, to “connect the dots” to prove it. So I simply write posts and tell friends about it… just for fun.

    Back to your regularily scheduled banter.

    If you want creative show ideas, let me know.

    Nino, check out for video journalism.

  20. Nino – FYI: here in the US the biggest (highest paid) food journalist is Anthony Bourdain.


  21. Michael you really need to get a new example than JK Rowling. What is so surprising that an English teacher writes a book submits it to the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agents who send it off to publishing houses until it gets accepted? Rather than a bizarre and inspiring tale of outside the box thinking the JK Rowling real story is one of the publishing system business as usual… you should know better than to buy into the PR fluff.

  22. and his show is on the Travel Channel not the Food Network.

    Has the food network created any of the superstars of modern food journalism? Jamie Oliver? Gordon Ramsey?

    I go along with you to a point Nino. But when you say the Food network refuses to consider proposals from non-approved vendors. I say stick a fork into the Food Network. They are done.

  23. I think you missed the point Peter, I just picked the Food Network as an example to prove that it is not impossible to submit concepts to an established network as MR tends to make believe and you don’t have to be part of a paying group to get to the decision makers. I also showed how to get in touch with the production companies that are already making programs should you have any idea for a current show.

    If you have a good plan that they can convert into cash you can bet that they’ll listen, if the concept is bad or doesn’t fit their needs then you get a nice thanks but no thanks letter.

    Also it doesn’t have to be an approved vendor, only one that has previous experience in producing or working in a series of shows.

    The bottom line is that if you are inexperienced no network will want to talk to you, ideas are a dime a dozen. This Travel Channel open access to executives is nothing more than a ploy to entice others to sign up for the classes.

    As I asked MR, so they like an idea, then what?

  24. this board wouldn’t be half as much fun without nino posting 10 times in two days.

    it would be twice as much.

    nino, spend some time with your kids!

  25. !
    Good job man, this time you actually put a full sentence together. I told you not to give up yet, you can do it.

  26. understood Nino – but kind of ironic that you choose the Food network, so soon after that NYTimes feature.

  27. Can't we all just get along

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