SIGNUP
Examples

TV Distribution, Sales and Marketing Assistant

If you are looking to start a career in the business side of broadcast you will be starting out as an assistant in one of the varieties of departments which generate and distribute content.

Stage
1

Gaining work experience within any office or sales environment so you can work on your IT and admin skills. Having another language under your belt could be advantageous when working internationally.

Stage
2

Seek out internships after studying, they can be a duration of anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months. The big broadcasters all advertise annually paid trainee schemes.

Stage
3

Know what areas of the business you want to work in and apply for junior level positions (trainee, junior, team/exec assistant) which can further strengthen your understanding of the business.

HOW DOES THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THE TV INDUSTRY WORK?

Each year in the UK, £7bn is spent by broadcasters, marketers and agencies on the production and distribution of programme and commercial content (figure sourced from BARB). It’s a massive industry, expanding in all sorts of platforms and formats due to the invasion of web content providers such as Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) giants Netflix and Amazon Prime, and Ad-supported VOD (AVOD) providers such as All4, YouTube and Hulu. Due to all these new avenues of content streaming - the TV industry is experiencing a bit of a revolution - with a large number of on and off screen talent from the film industry migrating to TV, proving that cinematic high production values and epic storylines can translate to the small screen(s) associated with popular culture. With 450 scripted series expected to launch in the USA this year, and the UK exporting over 400 dramas to worldwide territories - the thirst for original content shows no sign of slowing down just yet.

The distribution, selling and marketing of TV content is convoluted but it’s a side to the industry that attracts an intelligent, media-savvy workforce who share a passion for the content that they deliver. Most commercial TV production companies are owned by large media conglomerates (eg. All3 Media, Fremantle Media and Endemol Shine Group). Smaller, independent production companies are the exception rather than the rule today as mergers and acquisitions have brought many companies together under one large corporate umbrella. Some of the big UK production companies have in-house teams of marketers, sales agents and distribution executives with a global reach.

The main goal of distribution companies is to acquire and deliver content to an audience while turning a profit. They may also be involved in pre-selling, finding co-production partners and deficit funding third party content. Sourcing finished programmes or scripts that will connect with an audience is a subtle art, and as the industry changes, so have the ways distributors have chosen to operate - it’s a much more collaborative, global environment now. Here’s a very brief run-down of the processes involved in content distribution:

  • Members of the acquisition department will make deals and purchase TV content. They buy via TV festivals, sales markets, or as part of an ongoing relationship with a production company that they’ve done deals with in the past. A distribution deal can be key for independent producers on their mission to source investors (who will match fund or fully fund the project). Most production companies are affiliated with a distribution company regularly, or are owned by the same parent media group. Finding a distribution deal for a one-off low to mid budget programme can be one of the most challenging aspects of an independent producer’s work, and can be a heavy financial burden if a platform isn’t quickly found for it.

  • Through a distribution agreement, the producer grants the distributor or broadcaster (with exclusive licence) the right to broadcast the content for a defined duration, in a defined territory or specified list of territories. In exchange for this (and other services), the distributor or broadcaster may ask for approx. 30% of all net revenues generated by the content. In the case of giant entertainment formats (eg. GBBO and Big Brother), the ancillary rights can provide a major source of revenues to content creators - provided that the producer has protected them as individual Intellectual Property (IP) products. See the case of BBC vs. Love Productions as a recent example of this.

  • As soon as the content is purchased, the marketing department will research the best time to distribute it, and research the audience that the content will appeal to before going about creating a marketing strategy or campaign - which could include radio/TV trails, and web/social media/print ads. If the programme is going to be shown in another territory, the marketing will be tailored specifically to appeal to that market.

  • The marketing team will also be hard at work generating buzz for the product. ‘Buzz’ for a high profile TV drama needs a little coaxing, usually with the publicity team capitalise on the attached on-screen talent to generate interest and using social media to create build up and get people talking. Other marketing/branding priorities will include generating behind the scenes interviews (eg. with directors/producers), and finding ways to extend a brand so that it stays fresh, relevant and securing brand longevity.

  • Commercial channels, SVOD providers and AVOD providers rely heavily on their ad sales team to place the right product sponsorships and advertisements at the right time with the right content. This involves a lot of market research, looking at trend forecasts and analysis of TV viewing figures/metadata.   

  • Once the distribution window has closed (and the content has been streamed/broadcast), and if the distributor owns the ancillary rights - they can work on DVD and Blu Ray sales, other VOD outlets, and Cable channel options. The distributor is often responsible for any DVD extras, digital or web-based spin-offs, and will have worked with a Publicist to generate the Electronic Press Kits and additional extras for the DVD.

  • At the very end of the distribution process, the rights to the purchased content are handed back to the production company after an agreed period of time (though this doesn’t apply to formats). It’s usually an agreement lasting between 5-10 years. The rights could be renewed for another term agreed by both parties, or sold on to another distributor.

Different TV broadcasters and content platforms acquire a varied amount and varied selection of content from year to year - with output fluctuating depending on audience trends, viewing figures, financial tallies, and acquisition budgets. For example, Channel 4 Programme Acquisitions purchases and schedules around 900 films a year, but it doesn’t acquire one-off documentaries - one-off documentary producers must apply through 4Producers, via their commissioning process.

WHAT ARE THE ENTRY LEVEL POSITIONS IN THE BUSINESS SIDE OF TV INDUSTRY?

Major UK distributors, big broadcasters (BBC, C4, ITV, C5) and media groups like Endemol Shineand FremantleMedia have offices in the UK (based in London unsurprisingly) and abroad, all offering a selection of internships and assistant positions which are usually displayed on their websites, in the jobs and work experience sections. These are massive powerhouses that produce content (some own a whole stable of production companies), finished and format programmes as well as representing a global catalogue of premium finished and format programming across all genres (likely to include a mix of: entertainment, reality TV, game shows, animation, drama, children’s programming, factual and comedy). The bigger the catalogue - the bigger workforce these companies need to manage their catalogue.  

There are also a number of smaller distribution companies that operate in the UK working to acquire a small slate of content for ancillary distribution. These companies will also offer the following junior positions, though with a smaller catalogue - there will be fewer/less frequent opportunities:

  • Work experience

  • Internships

  • Team/office PA/assistant position

If you’re assigned to a specific executive as a PA, or a PA to the exec team - your duties may include managing diaries, booking accommodation, taxis, flights and train tickets. You will manage calls for the execs and take messages. You will attend meetings, write the minutes and book out meeting rooms. If you’re employed as an office assistant, you may handle some of the above duties, as well as more general duties such as ordering stationery, providing refreshments, keeping front of house tidy, filing paperwork and distributing print outs.   

Be aware that there are many roles within the distribution industry where the term ‘manager’ and ‘executive’ describe varying levels in the career ladder. A ‘junior executive’ in some cases can describe a graduate who is acting as an assistant to the account manager. Always look carefully at job descriptions to check that the roles would suit your level of experience.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS IN A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY?

Depending on the size of the company, distribution companies can have many departments. It’s possible whilst working at entry level to work across a range of areas, which would be beneficial in understanding how each department functions and how they all work together. The most common departments to be found are:

Acquisitions and Rights:

The Acquisitions Department’s primary objective is to acquire (and secure/maintain the rights to) the best content for the channel, while fitting in with the company’s corporate objectives and artistic ambitions. The way in which content is sourced can range from international markets, meetings with other distributors and producers and tracking down potential projects through industry news/tip-offs.

Legal and Business Affairs:

Lawyers and compliance advisers in the department are enablers with considerable expertise in dealing with issues of media law, regulatory compliance and editorial ethics. They advise on all content-related legal and compliance issues in the making and broadcast of programmes and other content across a multitude of platforms, before and after broadcast. In addition, they provide guidance on issues of editorial ethics and best practice in relation to the making and broadcast of programmes. They’re instrumental in defending content if any complaints are made to Ofcom and where litigation is threatened. They also draft distribution contracts.

Marketing, Communications and Publicity:

The in-house marketing team work to project the best image of the company and its entire catalogue of output (or associated brands). They promote, (create media buzz), by commissioning marketing materials such as: teasers/ads, press releases and print ads in the lead up to broadcast. They will then oversee promotional campaigns. They act as mediator and liaison with the media on a national and international level. They also have a duty to record the results of their campaigns - to rigorously analyse the effectiveness of their campaigns as well as their competitors’ campaigns.

Sales:

A background in sales and a good head for business is required in this department. Sales are responsible for leading relationships with third parties to whom the company syndicate services and programmes. They drive significant revenue and manage key relationships to ensure that content is available in the right places at the right time. They need to demonstrate excellent negotiation skills, track multiple deals at once and have a good grasp of content distribution contracts and terms. International sales team members are usually bilingual so that they can communicate efficiently with their counterparts in other territories.   

In-house Technical/Content Operations:

There can often be technical positions available at a distribution company. They liaise with the other departments to make sure that the correct amount of prints/digital prints are copied and shipped off for release - this may include promotional materials as well as finished copies of TV content. Increasingly these days, the technical operations team will implement Content Security and Piracy measures, to ensure that nothing is leaked before the content is scheduled for release.   

International Distribution:

Depending on the size of the company, the members of the International team will work to make deals with overseas distributors/broadcasters/digital platforms. Those working in international distribution are often bilingual - and rely heavily on their contacts and industry relationships with broadcasters and producers in other territories to bring in more revenue for the company.  

Finance:

Responsible for all the company/group’s financial activities including: controlling, accounting, tax and treasury as well as IT and internal controls. They devise corporate financial strategies and are involved in risk management.

WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE INTERN/OFFICE/EXEC ASSISTANT POSITION?

Working as an assistant can see you taking on a variety of tasks. Some responsibilities may feel menial such as going on the coffee run, filing or sending out emails, but this can be a great way to meet people in the office. Interns are also sometimes assigned ad hoc work and their own projects to work on - especially if they’re part of a well-orchestrated/structured scheme like the ones offered by 4Talent and BBC Careers. Depending on what area of the distribution company you work in you can be called upon to:

  • File. Large companies with multiple departments can expect to generate a sizable amount of paperwork. Unless you are working for a company with a strict ‘paperless’ policy, you can expect filing and organising to be part of an average day.

  • Test Audience. You can be called upon to act as a test audience for a programme or new format. You will probably be asked to make notes and present your findings at the end of the screening.

  • Script reading. Scripts and pitches are continuously being submitted to distribution companies. If asked to read a script, you will need to write up a brief report (assessing pointers such as dialogue, plot, tone and theme) and assign them a score out of 10. Due to the confidential nature of development materials, you will be asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement - in order to protect the material from being leaked. The company lawyers will explain the company’s policy before you get your hands on any scripts.

  • Minute taking and transcribing. As a junior in the office, you may have to take detailed notes during meetings, or transcribe audio/video files.

  • Client focused. When visitors (inc. clients) come into the office you could be asked to make sure they are comfortable and provide refreshments. All companies have their own protocol when clients come into the building, so assess what may be asked of you and make sure you know your nearest delis, coffee shops and quality takeouts.

  • A/V file conversions for any material to be used for publicity.

  • Database management. All companies that hold large amounts of information will have databases that will need updating. If ever unsure about the system be sure to ask another member of staff.

  • Phone calls. If you are assigned to a particular senior member of the team (an exec, chief or vice president), or work in sales, your boss can be on the phone for a large percentage of the day, so be prepared to queue up calls, or take messages for them.

  • Competitive release schedules. Knowing what is being released at what time is crucial information for distributors. They may have a campaign calendar at larger companies, which will also need maintenance.

  • Analysing international and domestic viewing figure data as well as performance levels of competitors, and Return On Investments (ROI) for marketing promotions and trend analysis. Knowing how to write an analytical report and interpret data is a large part of the job, which is why distributors will be on the lookout for graduates who have an aptitude for numeric data and analytical skills.   

  • Events prep. Interns and office assistants will sometimes be asked to lend a hand when it comes to preparation for national and international markets, and any publicity events for the marketing departments such as junkets, and set press days. Interns can also help schedule and deliver promotional materials. During the markets, you may be asked to man a trade stand and represent the company during the event.

  • Running errands. All employees at junior level will be asked to run errands, either collecting lunch orders, or completely random and sporadic tasks such as going to pick up your exec’s dry cleaning.

  • Arranging collection and deliveries. Being on top of this is vital, if a company say they will collect and haven’t, never assume they will be coming, pick up the phone to check on their status.

  • Social media. Distributors use social media to promote themselves and the content that they are responsible for - though this is usually handled by the communications department. If you are asked to create Tweets or posts on behalf of the company - the content will be checked before it’s published. It’s best to avoid posting anything work-related on your personal social media in case you infringe confidentiality agreements, or risk releasing information that could jeopardise the official release of content.     

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK in Broadcast DISTRIBUTION?

During your time at a junior level you will be exposed to strategic planning, partnership development, publicity/promotions, grassroots company development, digital/social content management, creative, media, retail, distribution and more. Distribution is a fast paced but very collaborative environment. Strong teamwork is paramount to ensure everything runs smoothly. A positive, proactive attitude will be rewarded. The business side of TV is like production, in that it can involve long hours and chaotic schedules. Personality is a very important asset, as you’ll be conversing with people from all sorts of backgrounds, social status and nationalities. You need to be able to get on the right level with the person you’re dealing with, remain polite at all times and represent the company to the best of your ability.

You will be supported, nurtured, given on the job training. If you’re aiming to get to a senior level within distribution - qualifications (preferably degree level) are important. You can learn the media skills on the ground, but to reach the upper echelons of the industry, a business/sales/language or literature degree will give you the edge and improve your chances of rising up the ranks.

Working hours can vary, an average day in the office might be 8.30am till 6.30pm - though this could increase or decrease depending on deadlines and when you’re attending the international markets.

DO I NEED ANY QUALIFICATIONS TO WORK IN TV DISTRIBUTION?

Most companies will be on the lookout for graduates with relevant degrees in: law, business, marketing, sales or finance. Although a degree is not essential, the majority of people working in distribution do have a degree, as it demonstrates to the employer that they have the required analytical skills needed to work in this area of the TV industry.

If you are coming to the workplace with a broadcast or film degree - your interest in the industry, knowledge of contemporary independent and in-house TV content will carry weight. One of the most vital skills in distribution is being able to connect with the audience, so a demonstrable passion for TV is often a prerequisite of the job. You’ve got to love TV content - be  in touch with what’s on and when, if you can’t demonstrate your passion for TV, then there’s not much point in entering this industry. You need to have a hunger for sales too, as this is a commercial industry that is built on successful revenues.

The ability to handle numeric data can be an essential skill when looking for employment. Although working in distribution can be highly creative it is also largely a business enterprise, and a great career journey for those wanting to combine their business acumen with their love of TV content.

If you feel the need to top-up your business skills before entering the industry, there are a number of internships and trainee programmes available in the UK, with the top broadcasters and big distribution houses offering annual programmes. These positions are highly sort-after, but an excellent way of grounding yourself and making valuable contacts, with the hope of landing a full time position or future paid contacts after your training. Here are some on offer, though it's a matter of good timing as to when you apply, so track the deadlines in your diary and set reminders:

National Film and Television School

The TV Festival

4 Talent

BBC Apprenticeships

WHAT’S THE CAREER PATH IN TV DISTRIBUTION?

The first obvious progression from office intern/exec team PA is to work your way up to the position of sales assistant, Sales support or junior acquisitions manager within the company you currently work for, or look for opportunities elsewhere. If you are working at a larger company that house legal or marketing departments you may be tempted to change discipline, as both departments have a lot to offer providing you have the relevant skill set behind you.

Working in sales can offer you another option however, as the skills and contacts you make could potentially take you anywhere in the TV industry. What you are bringing with you from the sales background is a solid knowledge of what it takes to makes a TV programme work, knowledge of the industry, contacts, industry experience, and a grounding in how to sell a concept without the camera kit even being penciled for the job. You could use your experience in sales to progress as a producer (using your transferable pitching and budgeting skills), or start your own production company, and the list goes on. Effectively, the career path is whatever you want it to be when you have a 5+ years under your belt in sales or marketing. If you’re significantly changing your career plan - you may expect to take a pay cut, or side step in terms of your job title/grade, but if you’re determined and put the leg work in - it won’t be long till you’re back on course!

WHAT INDUSTRY PAPERWORK, SOFTWARE AND ANALYTICAL RESOURCES SHOULD I BE FAMILIAR WITH?

Working within the office environment will require you to have strong administrative skills and creative flair as you climb the career ladder. You would be at an advantage if you have:

  • Being able to collate, store and analyse data using software can become a crucial part of your job. 

  • A strong knowledge of both Mac and Windows operating systems, with particular attention to excel and powerpoint.

  • You will see a lot of Deal Memos and Deal Agreements, but these are drafted by the legal team, and tailored specifically to each transaction.

  • Your average day should include a look over the trade papers such as Broadcast and online resources such as BARB, for access to analytical data about viewing habits and ratings figures in the UK.

  • The Wit is the trend-spotter and trend-setter of international TV and digital content. The website provides the best information about the current and best TV and digital content, projects, developments and programmes.

  • TV Mole Industry intelligence, how-to articles and international pitching and funding opportunities – everything needed to get factual TV programmes commissioned. You can subscribe to a weekly e-bulletin which give you information about all the latest factual commissions and the career movements of the industry movers and shakers.

  • Everyone will have there ‘go to’ sites for information, so ask your colleagues what they prefer. To give you a head start, check out our Industry Essentials section for websites we value.

PHRASES EVERY NEW ENTRANT SHOULD KNOW

  • Territory. Refers to the international outreach, countries where distributors attempt to sell the rights to their content. The distributor is allowed to exploit the rights in certain territories - eg. USA and Asia.

  • Formats. Repeatable, exportable programme templates (eg. game shows and talent contests) that can generate multiple episodes in a multitude of markets - with the generalistic appeal to become hits in new territories.

  • Catalogue. When a company refers to their catalogue it is in reference to the content (or ‘brands’ like X Factor) that they represent at that moment in time.

  • Package. This is what the sales exec takes to market if the format/programme/drama is in its infancy and looking for funding. An attached director and cast with a great script can sell a drama series to distributors, making the sales exec's job significantly easier.

  • Delivery. After the content production is complete, it will only be ‘Delivered’ to the distribution company once all funds have cleared and paperwork has been signed.

  • Promo. A teaser that a sales exec can show at the TV markets, not the same as a trailer, which is created or commissioned by distribution companies for audience consumption.

  • MG (Minimum Guarantee). Amount paid by distributor for the rights to the content.

  • Payment Terms. When and how the MG will be paid e.g 20% on Deal Memo and 80% on Notice of Availability.

  • Term. How long the distributor will hold the content rights for (7 years is quite standard).

  • Holdbacks. When a distributor can exploit each media right e.g can release DVD with the US DVD release.

  • Division of Gross Receipts. How revenues from each media are split between the producer and the distributor, e.g 70% to producer and 30% to distributor.

  • One Sheet. Executives use these at the markets to sum up the content they’re selling in a nutshell. Usually has an image giving the visual representation of the content on one side, with a treatment and any secured talent laid out on the other side.

  • Deal memo. Signed by the distributor at the market and to be followed up by the sales execs once they are back in the office. They then send out the long form contract which will be drawn up by the legal team to officially tie the distributor into the deal. Until the official contract is signed the distributor can still back out at any point.

11 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR NEW ENTRANTS WHEN WORKING AT A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY.

  1. Learn how distribution works, each stage, who is involved and what the department you are working in brings to the process. Distribution is a multifaceted area of the industry, gain as much understanding of the process before you set foot in the office, it could be a useful buoyancy aid. If you are coming into the industry from a business background, learn about the industry as a whole and where distribution fits into the process.

  2. Try and remember everyone’s name. It sounds simple but can be harder to master than you may think, especially when you are introduced to people on your first day. Most company websites have a ‘meet the team page’ which will include photos of their personnel, so research and memorize all the faces in the office before you start!

  3. Always keep yourself up to date with industry news, trends and territories. Especially how TV/Cable channels and VOD platforms are responding to the demands of their customers/subscribers. The home entertainment experience is always changing, from the the number of screens content is consumed on, to creating shared experiences with interactive games and spin-off content/platforms.  

  4. Awareness of cultural trends when trying to predict the market can be a fun game to play at the beginning of your career, and a vital skill when you are working at a senior level.  

  5. Networking. At some stage you will be asked to attend industry events and TV industry festivals with the express purpose of making contacts. If you are a natural networker and socialiser then this can be one of your greatest attributes when working in distribution. If you find this side of the job a challenge - watch how your senior colleagues navigate this process and emulate them. Use your knowledge and passion of TV to break the ice.

  6. Develop and utilise your business skills such as negotiation and budgeting. These will come into play when working in the sales side of distribution.

  7. You may be called upon to read scripts whilst in the office. Most distribution offices are inundated with scripts to read, being able to read thoroughly and quickly can take some skill. Be honest in your feedback, your opinion will be counted.

  8. Know about the digital formats. Keeping up to date with the technical side of the industry can inform conversations and will avoid leaving you feeling overwhelmed.

  9. Personality. If you want to work in distribution, you will need an abundance of enthusiasm and charisma. Enthusiasm for the product you are selling and great people skills for negotiating. You’re likely to be negotiating with the same people over the course of your career so it is essential to know how to turn people down without offending them.

  10. Learn a language. A second or third language will give you the edge. Distribution is such an international marketplace - if you can demonstrate language skills, it means you can play on the international stage and thus be a more desirable asset to an employer.

  11. Strong editorial understanding. You’re selling a product, but you’re also selling a story. If you can memorise a synopsis, or explain a story in a sentence or two - this will be a massive advantage in distribution. You’ve got to be able to get under the skin of the product and talk about it passionately.

FAQ's

What are the industry bodies for TV distribution?

Independent film and television alliance http://www.productionguild.com/about-us/about-us/p>

How much will I earn if I work at a TV distribution company?

The salary of a junior member of the team will vary depending on which part of the country you are in. An office assistant can earn anywhere between £15,000 and £25,000 depending on the company. Some companies may ask you to complete a 3 to 6 month trial period, with a jump in salary on completion. If you decide to do this please make sure you are earning enough to cover all your costs for your first six months, especially if you are moving to London for the job. Please make sure you know what the minimum wage is.

Will I be expected to go to industry events?

Once you are at stage 3 of your career plan, and working at a junior level in distribution, you may be called upon to go to festivals and events/industry conferences. This can be an exciting time in your career as you begin to feel fully immersed in the industry. Remember you are there to work, so keep a clear head and enjoy the after parties - after your work is done. /p>

What is it like working at a TV festival?

Film festivals and markets are often a hectic week or two of meetings, handshaking and deal making. It’s going to be noisy, packed to the rafters and if it’s your first time at one of the big ones you are going to need a map. If you are working for a company who are regular attendants, you will most likely have been involved in pre-booking everything (unless the company has an events team); meetings, restaurants, evening drinks, screenings, events and panel discussions. 

If you do attend a festival or TV market it will most likely be MIPTV or MIPCOM - both held at a venue in Cannes, France. MIPTV is the world’s biggest TV and digital content market powering the unlimited potential of stories. In April, professionals from across the TV and digital entertainment ecosystem gather in Cannes to forge partnerships, seal distribution deals, network with their international executive peers, and attend high-level conferences and keynotes. MIPTV is also a key venue for early-stage development and financing deals, content acquisitions and programme sales. MIPCOM is the global market for entertainment content across all platforms. Held at the same venue in Cannes (every October), the industry’s major players converge across four days of meetings, screenings and conferences into deals, from blockbuster programming to groundbreaking partnerships. 

There are of course festivals and markets closer to home. Edinburgh International Television Festival is a thriving annual event - with its own Talent Development scheme called Ones to Watch. Then there are much smaller, more niche annual festivals such as Totally Serialized in London and Pilot Light TV Festival in Manchester. And of course the BBC (Worldwide) has its own annual event in Liverpool called BBC Worldwide Showcase. This one has been running since 1967, and now welcomes around 700 select delegates each year. TV buyers often spend about 10 hours a day watching new programmes in screening booths. Famous names like Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir David Attenborough, Peter Capaldi and Michael Palin have attended in previous years. Executives who attend Showcase snap up world-class programmes including series like Doctor Who and Sherlock, and buy the rights to produce local versions of formats like Top Gear, The Great British Bake-Off and Strictly Come Dancing – making them hits on their own channels in far-flung territories.

What’s it like selling formats in an international market?

International distributors do their own research, scouting the best available formats from around the world. Through their networks and local contacts, they know about what’s hot in the territories that they operate in. Most companies acquiring third-party formats subscribe to TheWit, to stay keep their fingers on the pulse. Some format creators will pitch directly to distributors in order to start up a bidding war. They will try to raise the profile of their format (before entering into contractual agreements with distributors) by getting exposure at trade conventions like MIPTV and MIPCOM. During the very popular Fresh TV sessions at MIPTV, some formats get instant offers from distributors and broadcasters because of the publicity offered by being included in the selection - before they’ve even been seen at the Cannes venue! 

Other format creators even promote their planned appearance at Fresh TV sessions to distributors, to coax them to sign a distribution agreement ahead of the MIP markets. It’s very important for format creators to get a distributor attached and ready to sell the format before it becomes public at trade conventions. If the format isn’t attached before you attend MIP markets, the format is at risk of being copied because the world will know about it and thus the creator of the format will lose essential sales opportunities. As an example of International formats that sell - the Come Dine with Me format’s global sales have earned ITV Studios (who created it) more than £57 million. Simon Cowell’s Got Talent format was recently announced as the world’s most successful reality TV format - commissioned in an incredible 58 territories worldwide!

Will I get to go onto a TV set?

Working as part of the marketing team, or as an assistant at a distribution company you may be given the opportunity to visit a set. You may be involved in making arrangements to take a buyer on set, and then chaperone them during the visit. If you are working in publicity (in-house broadcaster or independent production company), you could work your way into the Unit Publicity Department, who do get to go on set, working closely with producers and the production department to promote the film/programme/series/serial/soap.

Are all the jobs working in distribution in London?

It is true that a majority of the UK’s distribution industry revolves around London as it is an International melting pot, and has excellent travel links.

Can I move into distribution when I have been working in another sector of the industry?

Yes. It may involve a bit of side-stepping and a potential period where you’re employed at a slightly lower level/pay grade but it is possible. For example, if you were a producer or development producer working in drama production - you would fit in well within an Acquisition Department as you’d be adept at pitching, budgeting and negotiating.


Thank you's ...

MFJTV would like to thank Amanda Baird (Head of Content Projects and Planning at BBC Worldwide) for her input into the guide.

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