What is a Network?

A network is the corporate entity that airs the show. So, they don’t produce it, but they are the ones that put it on the air. They buy the rights from a studio to air it a certain number of times.
So, a network, they’re the channel, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, or a cable network like HBO or TPS. They don’t actually produce it. They have to buy it, and they buy it from the studio.

What is a Studio?

The studio is the one that actually makes it. The studio absorbs most of the risk. They can make a lot of money if the show’s a hit. So, a studio might be like Universal or Warner Bros or Disney or 20th Century Fox, although Disney now owns 20th Century Fox. But they’re the studio.

What is a Production Company?

And the production company is like a smaller branch, a tiny branch of the studio. They’re usually run by an important writer or director or former studio executive or actor, and they get a production deal. And the studio will pay a small part of their overhead. They’ll pay the salaries and stuff like that.

How Do Writers Work With Studios and Production Companies?

The job of the production company is to help seek out shows to pitch to the studio. So, when my partner and I have an idea that we want to pitch, but we’re showrunners, it’s a little bit different for us, but we either pitch to a studio, and if the studio likes the idea, they will pitch it with us. They’ll go with us to find a network. We pitch from network to network, and hopefully, we find a buyer. And then, if the network buys the show, then we get paid for our project.

Sometimes we’ll pitch it to a production company. It’s not like we need to because we know how to do the job, but a production company might have a good relationship with the studio, and they might help sell us. They might increase the odds of actually selling the show. So, we will pitch it to a production company. If the production company likes it, we’ll pitch it to the studio, and the studio will then pitch it to the network. And then, hopefully, we’ll get paid.

Do Writers Ever Pitch Networks?

Some networks don’t require us to do it. They function as their own studio, like Netflix. If you sell a show to Netflix, they’re essentially the studio as well. So, they’ll shoot it, and they’ll air it. Sometimes my partner and I will pitch directly to a network. Not often, but occasionally. And that’s nice because you cut down a layer of nodes. But if you can pitch to a network and they say, “Yes,” then they’ll find a studio for you. Often they’ll take it down to their sister studio.

Summary

So, that’s how that works. I hope it’s all clear because it doesn’t seem clear to me. Hollywood can be confusing. But for more on how to be a television writer and how to break into the business, you can follow me here. And if you’re good-looking like me, you can follow me on Instagram. I welcome all good-looking people like me on Instagram at @MichaelJaminWriter.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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