Streaming Services

The internet has changed the way we watch TV and consume content. Today, in response to the digital revolution and the rise of cord-cutting millennials (nearly 33 percent according to a recent study) streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have taken over where cable used to reign supreme. With nearly double the number of subscribers as ESPN, it’s no wonder that these companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their own content.

However, if you are an animator or creative looking to get your work in front of a large audience there is still hope. With the right guidance and plenty of effort, you just may be able to crack the code and get your animation onto one of these streaming services.

Let’s face it, pitching your show idea to a streaming service is not the easiest process in the world. With hundreds of projects in development at any one time, how can you compete with the best and brightest minds in animation? The good news is that there are some golden rules out there that can help you get your project noticed. Remember, every new show idea is a gamble and no one can guarantee that you will get your dream project on the air, but if you follow these five rules of thumb, then at least your name will be in the hat.

Rule 1: Get it in writing!

If there is one thing I know about entertainment it is that nothing happens without a contract and the more complicated and difficult it is to understand, the better. One of my favorite sayings comes from show business: “If we can’t read the writing on the wall then we’ll rewrite it for you.” But make no mistake about it; if you can’t track down all of your notes, ideas, conversations, and any other relevant documents related to your pitch through email or some other back-up plan then you are doing yourself a disservice. If your pitch is accepted for consideration by a streaming service, it will be their lawyers that will dissect everything so do yourself a favor and make sure that every detail has been noted.

Rule 2: Don’t get hung up on the term of exclusivity.

Netflix has made a name for itself by producing proprietary content, but it is important to remember that they are not eligible to produce anything under US Copyright Law while Disney and Warner Brothers still enjoy exclusive rights to their own output. What does this mean? It’s simple really; anyone can produce your show, all you have to do is make sure that the producer also has access to other services outside of their network. For example, if Netflix wants exclusive rights for five years then simply make sure you are allowed to shop it around for five years as well. You may even consider asking for multiple windows or renewals down the line. This way, if one streaming service is not happy with the numbers your show is drawing in for whatever reason (there are many possible reasons) you can always take it to another company. It might even be worth attaching a clause in your deal that allows for foreign exploitation in conjunction with rights in perpetuity. Should your show ever make it big, you never know where it might end up.

Rule 3: No one knows who you are–so act like it.

The first step to getting your show on a streaming service is building awareness for your brand and having an active social media presence will go a long way toward achieving that goal. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can give you a voice and help you build up a fan base. But how many followers do you actually need? I think we all know the answer to that question: only 1 billion–the number currently held by Frozen co-creator Jennifer Lee. The reality is, there is no magic number when it comes to social media success but if you can get your name out there and start getting people interested in your work, then you are on the right path. The last thing you want to do is put all of your eggs into one basket (and by that I mean Facebook) because we don’t know if any of these sites will still be around in a few years. If this happens and companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu start focusing more on their own content then it will be up to you to get your name out there and social media can help with this greatly.

Rule 4: Start small and prove what you can do.

It is likely that the first question a streaming service will ask you when trying to choose between two pitches is, “Who are these people?” And if they can’t find any information online about you, it is very likely that your show will not be getting the green light. Now this does not mean that you have to have thousands of followers on Twitter or a couple hundred thousand YouTube subscribers but having some sort of social proof will go a long way toward helping your case. You can look at examples like Pendleton Ward or J.G Quintel to see how small you should begin. If all else fails, take a cue from Estelle and start uploading covers of other people’s music onto the Internet—just don’t ask me for help with your first steps because I won’t be able to offer much.

Rule 5: Your show should have an easy to remember title.

The title of your show is just as important as the story itself and it should be memorable if you want people to connect with it. In a perfect world, you would have a title that becomes part of the American lexicon but all we can do in this case is offer some advice for creating that perfect title. How about combining two popular words like “frozen” and “pandemonium?” Or you could choose a random word like “smash” and try to make it work (it’s not impossible but do you really want to take the chance?) The last thing we recommend is testing out your title on the Internet by making a quick logo or image of it and see what happens. You’ll be surprised to learn how many hits you can generate on Twitter with just one picture, so go ahead and try it out if you don’t believe us.

Conclusion

Now that you have all the basics covered, all you need to do is put it into practice. The battle for your show’s streaming future begins now, so be ready!

Thanks for reading! What are your rules of thumb? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to check out our latest newsletter ! Until next time.

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