Friday, October 31, 2008

Successful tv formats, no 1

1. Protect yourself and protect your idea. Now. Or even better, yesterday.

Good ideas are few and far between, in the rest of the world as well as in the television and cross media industry. That's why so many people flock to the conferences and markets around the world, that's why organizations like C21 can operate their virtual trailer vault, that's why Endemol har grown so huge, and that's why you, with your idea, have a great chance of making an impact on the market.

Remember, however, to be careful. Very very careful.

There's nothing as easily stolen as a good idea. A big organization, like for instance Endemol (and I'm NOT saying they would EVER nick ANY ideas from ANYONE, no sir, it's just and example ;) ) has lots of experienced people working for them. They can spot a good idea, or what's good in the core of an idea, and take it to their creative team immediately. And with their resources, chances are you'll see a format almost identical to your idea being sold and produced worldwide within a few months.

And trust me, if you're just starting out, it's going to take you a bit longer than a few months to get your idea out there.

Even if you manage to sell your idea, your format, into production in a territory, there's no stopping someone else to nick the general idea from you and go do their own stuff. Then, the only resort is to go to court.

So, there is an obvious dilemma. You need to market your idea, but as soon as you start marketing it anyone can nick it.

Now, there are some things to do. You can choose whom to speak and pitch to - some have a better reputation than others. You can ask for an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) to be signed before the pitch - although that might not happen, as buyers do not want to be tied by a formal agreement, chances are that you will have to cancel the meeting if you insist on an NDA.

Another way is to join an organization that protects formats - FRAPA is the most well known such organization, and for a fee you can register your ideas with them. This registry comes in handy should anyone rip off your idea straight off, as you then will be able to prove that this was your idea at such and such a time. The counterpart must then prove that the idea was theirs before you had it registered, or pay damages.

The most important thing, though, is to have your format as detailed as possible. This makes it much easier to spot copyright infringements and win a court case at the end of the day.

To conclude - be careful, protect your ideas as best you can, but at the same time be brave. If it's a good idea, you'll get it going.

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