TV: Broadcast TV Calendar

Now that the season for pitching ideas to network executives is already rolling, I want to share to those of you who are dreaming of writing and producing a network program the calendar and the process of how a broadcast network develops its programs that will be in contention to be part of its official line-up. This post is just a peek of what really happened before your favorite TV shows made it on the air.


Development Season – Development of ideas, pitches, and stories.
Pilot Season – Pilots are ordered, cast, and shot.
Staffing Season – Picked up pilots are staffed.

June – End of Staffing, Development Begins
July / August – Drama Development in Earnest (i.e. Pitching)
August / Sept – Comedy Development in Earnest
Oct / Nov – Drama Scripts Turned In
Nov / Dec – Comedy Scripts Turned In
Jan – Drama Pilots Ordered
Jan / Feb – Comedy Pilots Ordered
March – Staffing Season Begins
April – Drama Pilots Turned In
May – Comedy Pilots Turned In
May – Upfronts (In NYC)
June – End of Staffing, Development Begins

WRITER LEVELS (In Descending Order):

Executive Producer
Co-Exec Producer
Supervising Producer
Executive Story Editor
Story Editor
Staff Writer
Other: Consulting Producer

Negotiated Deal Points for Writers

Pilot Writing Fee
Pilot Producing Fee
Series Sales Bonus (Reducible for shared credit)
Series Fees
Royalty (Reducible for shared credit)
Backend (Reducible for Third Parties also by subsequent accredited writers)

Deal Process (Generally)

Creatives Buy/Hire an Idea/Client
Agent negotiates w/ Business Affairs
Deal Closes
Get Start Paperwork Signed by Client and Return to Studio/Net: I-9 (All), W-4 (Clients w/o loanouts), W-9 (Incorporated clients)
Get Paperwork from Studio/Net to Business Affairs or Client’s Lawyer
– Contracts that are generally not altered by talents representation: Staff Writer Agmts, Episodic Contracts
– Payment will not be issued until start paper work & CofA signed and returned
– 10% of Payment will be with held until contract signed

Financial commitments in Television Development

  1. Script Order: Network orders a script from a studio. The financial commitment is the cost of the script only.
  1. Script with penalty: The financial commitment is the cost of the script plus a premium on top. This signifies a higher priority for the project.
  1. Put Pilot, Cast Contingent: Network guarantees that a pilot will be shot assuming casting gets approval by the network. Connotes that a casting director will be hired ASAP.
  1. Put Pilot or Pilot: Network guarantees that a pilot will be shot.
  1. Put Pilot or Pilot with Penalty: Network guarantees that a pilot will be shot and if it isn’t, a specified amount of money will be paid to parties involved.
  1. Series/Episodic Order: Network guarantees that a number of episodes rather than just script or pilot. Usually connotes a significant financial penalty if for some reason it does not go.
  1. Midseason Order: An episodic order for a series (as opposed to just a script order or a fall order) to be launched midseason, traditionally anytime between January and March (rather than fall or summer).

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