Big mistakes in pitching

What are some of the big mistakes in pitching new shows to networks?

That was a question thrown to TV executives at Screen Forever conference last week.

Nine’s Co-Head of Drama Andy Ryan said, “Pitching (Dramas) that are simply not going to work coming off the back of The Voice or The Block with a tonal disconnect that aren’t going to work for our audience.

“The other big mistake is people who pitch and it becomes apparent they don’t watch Channel Nine. Or maybe they don’t even watch Television. You are kind of gobsmacked.

“Know your audience and know who your show is intended for. We are rigorous on that. We us the word ‘audience’ a thousand times a day in general conversation around the corridor.”

Seven’s Head of Unscripted Sonya Wilkes said Seven was looking for broad female-skewing reality for 7:30 – 9pm with “heart and aspiration” or factuals with incredible access.

But she noted pitching errors included concepts that have already been on air.

“I’ve had pitches from people for things that have already been on air and failed, and been pitched again. Or pitching titles that haven’t been cleared, that we could never clear. Pitching hosts and talent that we could never get, like Hugh Jackman.”

She also noted zeitgeist pitches cloning current hits already in the market, such as Netflix cooking series Nailed It!

“Within a couple of weeks of that being out there, I got at least 3 or 4 people pitching versions, like the ‘non-dessert version’ of Nailed it!

Another was pitches following the success of Sophie Monk in The Bachelorette.

“As soon as that happened I got 3 or 4 pitches of celebrity dating shows. But that’s not a criticism. I’m not saying don’t bring those ideas to us. It’s really just a sense of the zeitgeist and how rare a new idea is because we’re all swimming in the same pool of ideas.”


  1. Maybe TV Tonight could help circumvent that… feel like running a comp for new ideas David? Or maybe a forum that your avid and knowledgeable readership could all flesh out the next big thing!?

  2. It must be hard to really know, what will work without trying it. When it comes to Franchises, even they, are totally revamped compared too the successful overseas version. A simple example is ‘The Chase’ . Exact same format, but British questions are really hard, while Oz questions are overly simple. When they pitched ‘ hard questions’ the execs said ‘that will never keep our audience.

  3. Tailoring a pitch to one of the free to air’s ever diminishing audience seems like madness from a network executive looking for success. Their numbers are currently so low they struggle to ascertain the difference between a hit and a failure. More scripted television is being watched than ever before, albeit across many platforms, and with the networks focusing on what”s now is a very modest audience, they are only entrenching the views of the vast majority that you don’t watch free to air for scripted entertainment. If ever there was a time to stretch beyond the comfort zone…

    • If it’s a post about Channel 7 you can bet maxxdude has something critical to say. Would be great if comments could be kept constructive instead of flogging a dead horse.

      • Everyone deserves a right to have their say, and everyone deserves the right to be wrong too.

        I can’t comment on the moderation policy for TVT but I like how they allow everyone a voice here, and I for one would prefer it is kept that way.

        The best way to counteract incorrect or overly negative commentary on the internet is to post the correct information or a positive spin on the issue below it, and as soon as possible.

  4. Errrr…most of commercial TV consists of remaking whatever’s worked for other channels, including foreign stuff-thus we have a slew of shows ‘ambulance chasing’ currently. Remember folks, slavish imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

  5. I’d like to see these comments matched up against their complaints about SBS screening shows like Handmaids Tale, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Those shows would never make it to commercial TV in 2018 even if they were available.

    Probably just get stuck behind $TAN.

      • No I realise that. But Nine / Seven have spent last few years complaining of SBS snatching up “popular” shows which they say are against the SBS charter and seem a bit put out SBS getting decent ratings with them.

        My point is that Nine / Seven would never schedule shows like that anymore as it doesn’t fit in with their perceived brand or audience. Just a bit hypocritical of them to be complaining about both things I think.

        Only network making decent Drama like that in Australia anymore is Foxtel / Showcase.

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