A saleable programme idea captures the zeitgeist or fills a commissioner’s need and you’ll only be able to give them what they need if you know what they’re looking for.
It’s vital to keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry so you know what’s been commissioned and don’t pitch something similar). Note which programmes are working well or doing badly on certain channels. Look out for programming trends and see if you can put a new spin on a fashionable subject.
Broadcast is focused on the UK market and Variety and Hollywood Reporter focus on the US market. They detail the latest commissions, commissioning editor interviews and audience figures – this information will help you decide if an idea ‘has legs’ and will provide ammunition for your pitch.
Subscriptions can be expensive, but most TV production companies will subscribe (you might need to race your exec producer to meet the postman). If you are working independently, and can’t afford a subscription, you can sign up for their free email newsletters, which will give you an overview of the main stories.
Other ways to generate new factual TV ideas:
Get more development and pitching tips in Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch