Protection of a TV show idea

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by Chris Ashdown, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

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    If you have a idea for a new tv game show how do you protect it and also how do you find the many firms making tv shows

    I fully understand Copywrite
    I fully understand Non disclosure

    TV show companies seem to be rather discrete so not easily found as they are often independent from the main TV channels

    Found a site called TV writers Vault anyone have any knowledge of it
    Posted: Mar 8, 2018 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  2. pbdesigns

    pbdesigns UKBF Regular Free Member

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    Very hard to protect.

    I know many people who have pitched ideas, and a 'similar' idea has ended up on the TV a few years later!

    You'd need to approach a TV production company such as Endemol. But I'm sure they receive lots of 'ideas' all the time.
    Posted: Mar 8, 2018 By: pbdesigns Member since: Nov 23, 2011
  3. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    I'll fail to tell you tomorrow!

    But the explanation will be first class!
    Posted: Mar 8, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  4. obscure

    obscure UKBF Ace Free Member

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    The only way to protect an idea is with a signed NDA.Unfortunately I doubt that anyone will sign an NDA mostly because they don't think your idea is worth protecting. When I was in the games industry I had a FAQ post on my website that listed 10+ reasons why companies don't want your ideas. Sadly I recently took the site down.

    In lieu of that list I will just point out that the fact these companies don't have a prominent "submit your idea" link on their website should tell you everything you need to know.

    How many members does the site have? How many success stories of shows made? That should tell you what you need to know about your chances of success.

    In general creative companies have more ideas than they can ever make. If they do accept ideas from outside the company it will be from people with experience and understanding of the development and production process because they know what they are doing and are easier to work with.

    You could invest time and effort knocking on doors and going to conferences to build up contacts but, unless you are planning to make this your career, and have plenty of different ideas to pitch, it isn't really going to be worth it.
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: obscure Member since: Jan 18, 2008
  5. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

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    Nothing else I can do but wait with bated breath for your explanation that may never come, But nothing better to do
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  6. Caledonian TV

    Caledonian TV UKBF Regular Free Member

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    I've worked in the TV industry for a few months shy of 39 years now... I spent twelve of those years lecturing (part time) in TV production. - Generally, one of the first tasks I'd have with new students was to disconnect them from the various electric shadows they'd picked up off the internet about how programmes get to air.

    There are massive differences between the way that the American television industry works and the way things are done in Britain; although the larger companies are cross-border. - The main thing I know about this type of site (and there are a few) is that they fill people's heads with myths and nonsense.

    Yup! - Nail, head, smack!

    Game shows are a particular genre of writing - some say they boil down to just a handful of basic structures embellished in certain ways; not my thing, I'll turn the TV over if one comes on. But what I can tell you is that there is a reason why legitimate production/screenwriting courses take four years of full time study to complete.

    Huge faceless companies like Endemol won't even respond. You'd need to find one of the tiny independents and 'somehow' get an 'in' there. And sometimes that backfires as they often exist suspended by a thread.

    A cautionary tale exists in the form of one Stuart McKears' having pitched the original framework for 'Big Brother' - I can't post a link yet, but he owns the .com of his surname and if you were to append it with /bb.htm you'll find the evidence of this.

    I know this guy... He was a film cameraman at Thames TV when I went down there to complete my apprenticeship in the early 80s - he's 100% the 'real deal', good egg, much liked, highly respected in the trade etc. If he can get shafted, well... Sorry.
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Caledonian TV Member since: Mar 8, 2018
  7. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    When I was working at RTL in Germany many, many moons ago, a viewer phoned in with an idea for a TV show. The very junior assistant who took the call, politely told the caller that it was an obvious copy of a US TV show and that they were not interested, but thanked them for their interest.

    That assistant then thought about the idea and polished it up a bit, wrote it up and took it to her boss, who then told her that it was a stupid idea and not to bother.

    He then took that idea, after some changes and further polishing, to the programme director, who told him that the idea was not a runner. The programme director then took the idea to the station manager and it was turned into a so-called pilot and focus groups responded favourably to that pilot and a short series was commissioned.

    It tanked and was never heard from ever again!

    The trick to protecting a TV format is to get it into the hands of a large format factory, like Endemol or Celador who have the muscle to fight off those who seek to copy it and also have the marketing muscle to get that format accepted.

    The landmark case that gave us today's TV franchise landscape came when Canadian-British television producer and presenter Hughie Green objected to the unauthorised version of his talent show Opportunity Knocks under the same title by the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand from 1975 to 1978.

    Green claimed his copyright to the ‘script and dramatic format’ of the show, broadcast in the UK from 1956 to 1978. He cited the title, the use of nearly all his catch phrases, the use of a ‘clapometer’ to measure audience reaction and many other elements of the original show. To cut a long story short, he lost and the case was appealed all the way to the Privy Council in the UK which held that a dramatic work must have "sufficient unity to be capable of performance". He was unable to show that the elements of his format were more than accessories to different dramatic performances and therefore not capable of being protected under copyright.

    As a result of this case, those with programme formats to protect, have concentrated on getting their programmes into the hands of the giant corporations who have the power to force a format and can deny TV stations programmes and films that they really want and need, if they try to launch unauthorised copies.

    For this reason, there is today (despite the Green case) a thriving market in TV formats, but only for those that are backed by corporations large enough to force though that format.

    On the topic of Big Brother, the original idea came from various American TV shows back in the 80s and 90s of people being locked up together. MTV's 'The Real World' was said to be the main inspiration for the show - which itself was broadly based on the PBS series 'An American Family' which began waaay back in 1973!

    The show started as a small Dutch programme (on Veronica in '97) broadly created by John de Mol and others and called 'The Golden Cage' and hosted by sister Linda de Mol, who already had a German show on RTL called 'Die Goldene Hochzeit' (Golden Wedding) - a toe-curlingly awful programme much loved by young women, who were seen as the most important demographic advertising target.

    Rebranded 'Big Brother' the format was sold to RTL where it became a massive hit. I believe the UK version came much later in about 2003. It is today seen in over 50 countries! Almost everywhere where it has been shown, it has been the subject of exposés (for being somewhat obviously scripted!) and heaven-knows how many lawsuits. Most reality show formats from Endemol start in Holland and then spread like a Dutch tree disease across Planet Earth.

    To cut a very long story short, Joop van de Ende and John de Mol sold Endemol and are today billionaires!

    But the various morals of this story and all other stories around reality TV and game shows are -
    • The execution is everything. "It ain't what yer do, but the way that you do it!"
    • The host is key. "Wer wird Millionar?" is still running in Germany. The original was cancelled because the host was seen to be boring.
    • Whatever you think of, it's been done already! You just have to do it better!
    • You can't copyright a TV format - but you sure as hell can sell one!
    • Everybody is looking for that new killer format they can copy!
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  8. Caledonian TV

    Caledonian TV UKBF Regular Free Member

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    Just for the record... Stuart McKears has some of his treatment documents online that he freely circulated at the time and which date back to 1989 - but I also know for a fact he was playing with the idea circa 1981/2 - long predating either the Dutch or MTV iterations.

    As it happens, media law was among my specialities back when I was lecturing...

    Green's case failed because he had never brought the format together in defined manner before it was copied. As you highlight; it was simply a 'drawing together' of various elements; the originality of which, in some cases, was at best questionable. As found it lacked "sufficient unity to be capable of performance" - but that was mainly down to the lack of a cohesive definition of what it was existing prior to the show going out. - We used this this as a case study to illustrate how failing to protect the IP before you run with it can cause issues.

    Many years ago I would occasionally take work as a studio cameraman with STV, Win Lose or Draw being quite a regular gig at the Edinburgh Gateway studio for a year or two.

    The work was monotonous to the point where in the course of a day (we'd shoot maybe four or six shows) you'd start to become disoriented! Chatting to my regular Director (chap by the name of John Frame) it emerged he was working to quite a tightly-formulated script with very little wriggle room or scope for getting creative. - The format was owned by Disney/Buena Vista, who would go to extraordinary lengths to ensure this 'conformity', the reason being that this cohesion was necessary in order to ward off any challenge to the show. - Additionally, many of the elements of a show like that will not only be contained within their own copyright statements, but where possible trademarked. - That is essentially the outcome of the Green case.

    Yes, but unless you can gain an audience with those organisations - and do so in such a way that your IP is already protected - which means in essence the idea will already be at quite an advanced stage of development - that's a bit like 'tickling for trout' in a locked tank full of Piranha!
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Caledonian TV Member since: Mar 8, 2018
  9. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    The link is here -

    The concept as outlined is similar, but differs (IMO) somewhat from Big Brother.

    Every aspect of a show has to be protected. You may not be able to protect the concept, but image, name, music, set layout, general look and even how the show finds contestants can be protected and it is (as far as I know) this interlocking web of protective measures that Green failed to establish.

    Try doing a home shopping show with dozens of short sales pitches being recorded every day! I watched the poor wretches doing this hour-after-hour at SZM studios in Munich, home to seven or eight different channels, most notably Pro7.

    Or as Hunter S Thompson put it -

    In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.

    The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason. But it also has a down-side.

    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  10. Caledonian TV

    Caledonian TV UKBF Regular Free Member

    252 100
    ...Wasn't that the music business? I only know the quote because a colleague at Stow (who taught music management) had it pinned up next to his desk.

    Yes, IIRC correctly the Privy Council noted that there was also a lot of material in Opportunity Knocks which changed from show to show, and there were no scripts as such. I don't think he could produce any pre-existing style manual either,

    - These days there will be a 'programme bible' for every format that gives you things like sample scripts, set designs, floor plans, logos, costume specs and of course the full treatment.

    I have to admit, I hate studio work - I've done very little of it thank god; but then by trade I'm ENG/EFP. Home shopping sounds like my idea of hell! :D Only perhaps outstripped by a gig on Most Haunted! :(
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Caledonian TV Member since: Mar 8, 2018
  11. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    Home shopping is hell! There is no other word for it. Hell. I watched the poor devils, each and every one of them former top students from the Bavarian Film and TV School, happy to get a regular job with what was at the time, the funkiest and most progressive TV environment in Europe - only to have to smile and hold a can of this, a pot of that and a piece of the other, one new one every 30 seconds - eight hours a day!

    I started at Granada back in the 60s when the entire station had just six B&W 405 cameras and only the upper floor with the news and continuity room could sync the cameras together for switching. Shows like Nice Time, University Challenge and Coronation Street were recorded onto tape and each camera switch entailed a five-second break. Afterwards, someone had to paint magnetic paint onto the tape to see where that break came and then cut into the black-burst with a razor blade and glue the bits together, so that they played as one continuous sync'ed track.

    TV is a real 9-2-5. Monday read-through. Tuesday walk-through. Wednesday and Thursday rehearsals. Friday taping. Monday read-through - and so on. Rinse, repeat - until you die.

    Unless it's game shows. Five shows a day, five days a week, three months on end. Compared to game shows, VAT-returns are exciting and varied work!

    No, Hunter S Thompson really did write that about the TV industry - though he is very often credited as having said that about the music biz - but never did! I can't blame the music business for thinking that he wrote about them - it was for a very long time, even more corrupt and back-stabbing than TV.

    I've worked in both and the music biz was just unbelievable at times. It still is fairly crooked, but in the hay-days of record sales, music exec's thought nothing of moving a decimal point to the left when reporting sales to artists and were totally happy to take back-handers from anybody and everybody. Crooks and thieves masqueraded as A&R people and managers.

    It's better now, but only because record sales are all-but nonexistent and all the money is in merchandising, licensing and live performance, so the old tools for thieving and cheating, such as shipping your own records back out of Eastern Europe, forcing phantom co-writing deals and a thousand others, are denied them.

    Cliff Richard once got a platinum record award from EMI for South Africa. That got him calling his lawyers, as they had only reported a few thousand sales!
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  12. atmosbob

    atmosbob UKBF Ace Free Member

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    One of the most successful hosts was Mike Bongiorno in Italy.

    I've met him and he was a very smooth talking New Yorker whom every Italian housewife thought was born in Milan. The shows he appeared in were built around his personality. He came first with the show format second. He is reputed to have made Silvio Berlosconi his fortune which is why Berlosconi gave him a state funeral.
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: atmosbob Member since: Oct 26, 2009
  13. Caledonian TV

    Caledonian TV UKBF Regular Free Member

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    I came in in '79 via the University of Strathclyde's AV Unit - which was an ACTT shop, so they gave me a ticket. From there I was taken on Sapper's ACTT apprentice scheme to be trained as ENG/EFP. - I actually remember being shown physical cutting of quad tape; never had to do it though.

    - I'm also surprised to learn anywhere had old-school studio cameras that weren't driven from a central SPG; but hey-ho! Didn't even know it was possible to free run those old cameras. You live and learn.

    - We had old EMIs (625 by then of course) when I started at the uni; 201s or 209s maybe? Loads of old BBC kit. But within a few weeks of my arrival they were changing to colour (Philips Video 80 system); so my first year or so in the trade involved the hands on experience of seeing a studio rigged and working it through the shakedown - When I got to Thames it was all EMI 2001s, portables (with which I was mainly involved) were HL79s rigged to Umatics. after a year or two they started to issue the first (non-SP!) Betacams. I came back home in the mid 80s to start out on my own; going back to the old BVUs (M7s and 110s) before moving to Beta SP in about '89. (sigh) Happy days!

    ...Just as an aside; Dee Bahl, Biffy's Manager, also used to teach at Stow. He came into the staffroom one day back in 2007 looking for a quid off everybody in exchange for which we got a 7" of Saturday Sunday. This was of course to drive its position up.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Caledonian TV Member since: Mar 8, 2018
  14. Caledonian TV

    Caledonian TV UKBF Regular Free Member

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    ...Sorry; that should read "Saturday Superhouse". Can't edit it for some reason! :-(
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Caledonian TV Member since: Mar 8, 2018
  15. TotalWebSolutions

    TotalWebSolutions UKBF Ace Full Member - Verified Business

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    It's not Monkey Tennis or Inner-City Sumo is it? ;)
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: TotalWebSolutions Member since: Sep 29, 2009
  16. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    I'm a bit sketchy on hows and whys of how those old 405 cameras worked. I was but a lowly apprentice working in the sound side of things. I just remember being told the reasons for the five-second break between camera switches and watch some poor sap cutting the tape in about 50 places.

    I do remember that the damn things would break down on a fairly regular basis!

    After about a couple of months of that lark, I quit and joined the Parachute Regiment. A few months after I left, they threw all that stuff out and went colour. But back then, with just one commercial channel, having a TV franchise was like having a license to print money. We even had famous classical paintings in the halls and I remember seeing Francis Bacon's 'The Pope' hanging in reception!

    Those halcyon days were repeated in Germany in the 80s and 90s when commercial TV took off after a change in the law. At RTL, there was a party held by the station almost every other week and always featuring the very best Japanese food, which was the manager's favourite. And I mean with champagne, oysters, the lot! This happened at the slightest whim. Post production got a new Quantel rig - so we had a party. When a new switching and up- and down-link room was opened, we had a party. A new major TV show? Party time!

    Too drunk to drive home? Call a cab, book a hotel. Invoice the station!

    Then owners Bertelsmann cracked the whip, the MD was given the golden boot and the parties stopped.

    The annoying thing was, that the suits from Bertelsmann were profoundly incompetent and did not understand TV one little bit (they've learnt since!) RTL was in Cologne and in the North of the city, Bertelsmann (with others) started a new station in the early 90s called Vox. Everything about Vox was technically perfect. Every part of the (very small) building was perfectly planned and all the technology was the very best and the most efficient.

    The only problem was, the station manager was ex-public broadcasting (ZDF) and he and his Bertelsmann minders forgot completely to buy any programming and even forgot the need to forge close links with media buyers, so that they could sell advertising. Unlike RTL, where everything revolved around programmes and advertising, Vox was all boys-toys, but nothing to broadcast! They had to go on a panic buying spree of just about any rubbish out there! The result was a 0.5% viewership market share, which climbed to the dizzy heights of over 1% - and after just one year, the whole thing collapsed and News Corporation stepped in and bought out most of the owners (except Bertelsmann).

    The Schadenfreude at RTL was mighty! Today RTL owns Vox and it has about 5% viewership share.

    Which brings me back to the OP and his projected game show. The format is irrelevant. Just as Vox was all format, Sony robotic cart machines, fully automated playout, every bloody thing perfect - except they forgot the all important fact that you need programmes.

    And for programmes, you need talent. The person hosting the show is 28-point-seven times more important than the format. Give me a truly great host and any damn format will work.

    It reminds me of all those numpties pouring out of all those college courses for TV and film. They discover that they can't get a gig, so they buy some 4K cameras, an editing rig and some grips and try to create a programme or film - and fail.

    First comes the creative talent. Then comes the on-air talent. Then and only then, do we worry about formats. Right at the very end, comes all the gubbins, like studio hire, cameras, sound, lighting, music stings and cheese sandwiches. It takes one day to make a game show pilot. It takes a year to get to that day!
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  17. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

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    Doom Doom & Gloom, that's not what i wanted to hear, I need at least 1 million to make my retirement happy, Please give me the great news I want to hear you know Fred Bloggs on Shaftsbury Avenue who always looks for new idea's, no much to ask for I mean we have Byre for music and Caledonian for Camera work, must be a odd director not working we could use, Bound to fly with Byre para knowledge
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  18. Toby Willows

    Toby Willows UKBF Regular Free Member

    759 164
    I knew Keith Chegwin, but he’s dead now so probably not much help.
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Toby Willows Member since: Jun 20, 2016
  19. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings - well, now Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is being relaunched - with Jeremy Clarkson as host!

    I just hope that Celador remember to book the canteen for that all important steak-n-chips at MediaCity!
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  20. Caledonian TV

    Caledonian TV UKBF Regular Free Member

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    I dunno so much, I'm expecting Yvette Fielding to start channelling him some time soon.

    Normally it's the ones that dropped out or didn't listen who do that sort of thing. Or worse still, those who never studied the subject at all! - It's a bit of a myth that there are many of these courses at all; and the state of media education is, as it was 40 years ago, dire!

    At FE level (NC/HNC/D) a TV course which is 'less selective' entry-wise (necessary to provide access opportunities for the less academic) should probably only be passing about 1/3rd of it's entry; the bulk of them (post HND) will be articulating to the 3rd year of a degree course - and here in Scotland that means another TWO years...

    But of course, that doesn't cut it with the suits on the top floor or the politicos who obsess over retention figures and pass rates. Especially as these courses are extremely expensive to resource properly; so they're often not! Said suits react by launching campaigns of attrition against the lecturers who actually have walked the walk (i.e. have real industry experience) and not only moan about the lack of gear, but refuse to pass people 'on the nod' for the sake of the KPIs; they prefer the compliant sorts who imagine it's 'OK' to be 'one page ahead of the students and rarely have any genuine industry experience at all!

    - The result is a perfect storm where you have people who are unsuited to the industry being 'taught' by others that often don't understand the subject they're teaching, certainly have no grasp of the realities, and are under pressure - not to impart knowledge - but to sate the appetite of the top floor for entirely vacuous statistics.

    The universities of course can be more selective, and usually are... Which is why there are a handful of them which actually feed the broadcast and film industries. Though of course an industry entrant today is likely to find themself no further forward at 22 with a degree than I was at 17 with a couple of Highers. - But that's the way of the modern world.

    As to our avid readers of 'Camera mug Monthly'... Well, you'd probably be unsurprised to learn that we pick up an awful lot of hardly-used kit from individuals who have either had a nice shiny camera bought for them by daddy, or the other type who think 'see one do one' and blow their retirement money on whatever the dealers d'jour happen to have been pushing.

    The ones that actually imagine they're going to make a 'fillum' or a TV programme are generally delusional... If they knew what they were doing they wouldn't be doing that; going straight for the shiny toys I mean. 80%+ of the job is planning and paperwork; same goes for corporates.

    TBH most Directors seem to be pretty odd ;) - I put it down to a combination of excessive paperwork and isopropyl fumes. :D[/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
    Posted: Mar 9, 2018 By: Caledonian TV Member since: Mar 8, 2018