What’s the difference between a pilot, a put pilot, and a presentation?

A pilot is just the first episode of what everyone hopes will be a successful television series. And the network might shoot 10 pilots and of those 10, they test them in front of a focus group. And then of those, maybe they only air one or two. And how do they decide? It’s not necessarily the pilot that’s the best or the best written or has the most famous stars. It’s the pilot that they think will most likely connect with that network’s current audience or the audience that they hope to find, which is why sometimes good pilots don’t get on the air, and kind of iffy pilots do get on the air.

A put pilot is when a writer pitches a pilot idea and the network likes it so much that they’re willing to pay a substantial penalty if they don’t put it on the air. So you’re like, “Damn, that’s a guarantee, right?” Not really. If the network ultimately decides they don’t really want the pilot, they’ll just either pay the penalty or renegotiate the penalty with the studio, maybe offering favors to one of the studio’s other projects. So, nothing’s really a slam dunk.

A presentation is when the network likes the idea, and likes the pilot, but they don’t want to spend all that money on shooting a pilot because pilots are very expensive. They just want a taste. So for example, my partner and I currently have an animated project set up at one of the networks. They don’t want to invest all the money in a pilot, so they’re just giving us the budget for a presentation. So we’re going to make a five-minute presentation just so they get a sense of what the animation looks like and how the show kind of feels.

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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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