How To Produce a TV Series That People Actually Watch

  1. How To Produce a TV Series
  2. Television Series Concept
  3. Produce Your Pilot
  4. Ignore The Critics
  5. Sell Your Series
  6. TL;DR
  7. Produce Television FAQs
  8. Glossary

If you want to produce a TV series, there has never been a more exciting time for content creators. Nowadays, there are so many outlets for your content to be exploited.

It’s almost guaranteed that if you make a high-quality show with high production value and take the proper steps, you can be on Television.

fs web tv series

Before we go further, I want to ensure you understand that Television is no longer run strictly by the major networks.

TV now includes all forms of VOD, whether it be iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNOW, and a whole host of others.

All those are now streamed seamlessly to actual televisions, so it all falls under the TV umbrella.

I created a video series covering the entire production process and distributing a TV series. The series starts with creating a Television Series Bible, which provides a comprehensive overview of the fictional world you are building.

This document includes all the essential details a potential network or buyer needs to understand your series.

How To Produce a TV Series

Years ago, I produced a television series called MIDTOWN. It ended up on Amazon (Seasons 1 and 2), and getting the series going was a fun experience.

The best way to produce a TV series is to align your game plan among all three before you begin. Don’t worry if it may change. Years ago, I learned it’s easier and better to have a plan and switch it up than to have no plan.

Television Series Concept

Start with a concept. What’s your show about? Is it reality or non-fiction? Is it a comedy? A Drama? Short form or long form? And since most VOD marketplaces require at least three episodes, what is your story arc?

Then comes the biggie. Who will watch it, and why? Answering this question early will lay the path for where to exploit the series when it’s complete.

Let’s say I have a reality show about college Tennis. I plan to go behind the scenes at different colleges and find their programs. And from there, I’ll want to showcase famous alums and up-and-coming stars.

My goal with this show is to provide a detailed look at what college Tennis is like.

I just made this up, but I can already answer questions about who would be interested.

  • Tennis fans
  • People who are into college sports
  • College-aged kids

So now I take that list, looking for similar shows or shows in the same general category, and see where they air. Youtube, I’m sure, has identical shows.

What about Hulu? Netflix? What about a network aimed at College sports? Make a list. This will be the list you use later on in your outreach.

Produce Your Pilot

Now comes the part that could be the hard part. How do you make it happen? For MIDTOWN, we decided to make an improvised comedy about two New York City cops bantering in a car. We shot the pilot and first season for pocket change, and it looks like crap… BUT… it is hilarious.

Half of the reviews on Amazon complain that it looks cheap (it was – And you can’t worry about these types of reviewers), and half say it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen.

We corrected this with a larger budget for the 2nd season (which averages five stars!) but stuck with the comedy at a high level.

I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back or promote the show. I’m saying this because if we could pull Midtown off for $200, you can produce a TV series, too. But you have to make compromises.

Ignore The Critics

Maybe it’s shot on an iPhone? Perhaps you can’t do that big crowd scene? Maybe some of your actors are just ordinary people trying to pull it off? It doesn’t matter.

Make the best show for your money, and then get it out there. Then, if the show gains popularity, you can worry about getting a budget with actual stars and production value.

In the series LetterKenny (from my research), they created a few Youtube videos of banter and comedy with a Canadian slant. They played with language, and it worked.

After they got a few million hits, a Canadian network took notice.

Their initial show was shot for pennies but became a funded show. Now it’s on Hulu, with a budget, sets, and production value.

As long as you can run a safe setting, it would be best if you never let your lack of budget stop you. If you don’t have the equipment, find someone who does and partner with them. Make it happen.

Sell Your Series

Now, here comes the fun part… Where can you exploit the show?

Please resist the urge to put it on YouTube and hope for the best! Get out that list you made when brainstorming a show and start attacking that. Start researching if you don’t know who to contact on a particular network!

When you produce a TV series, you can find almost anyone’s contact info for the entertainment industry on Cinando.com, a paid membership database. There are also markets where you could go and pitch your show and display your sizzle or your pilot. Markets you need to know:

  • RealScreen: The #1 market for reality and non-fiction. There’s Real Screen (east Coast) and Real Screen West. Check them out and see which one is coming up next. It is VERY much worth the price of admission.
  • MIPTV and MIPCOM: The premiere markets for TV, with the downside being that a trip to Cannes, France, IS expensive. But this is where I got the initial deal for MIDTOWN, which has paid off very well. Are you willing to invest in your career? Do you want it bad enough?
  • NATPE: This market takes place in Miami. And it is one of the top TV markets in the US. Maybe not for beginners, but it’s still worth researching, and if your content lines up, you should go down there.

Plan to contact the networks you outlined and set up a meeting. If that fails, then at least focus on getting key executives to watch your sizzle reel or pilot episode. Additionally, you should plan a trip to a market, where you will walk away with a STACK of business cards of possible leads.

Above all else, be bold. So many people fail to produce a TV series. Will you be one of those? Or do you want to work with the people making TV regularly?

If you’d like more information on producing a television series, enroll in my on-demand Television producing course to get real-world tactics to help.

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Do you want to make a TV series that people watch? Now’s the perfect time. It’s all about having a killer idea, shooting a pilot (even on a tight budget), and ignoring those who doubt you.

Think about who’s going to love your show and where it fits. It could be anywhere from YouTube to Hulu. Don’t just throw it up online. Target the places where your audience hangs out. Making a show might start with a tiny budget, but your passion and smarts will make it shine.

Produce Television FAQs

Here are answers to your questions about producing your television series.

How do I start making a TV series?

Start with a solid concept. What’s your show about? Get your idea down, then plan your series, including whether you’ll shoot a pilot or jump straight into episodes.

Do I need a big budget to produce a TV series?

No, you don’t. Start with what you have. My show, MIDTOWN, had a tiny budget at first. Focus on making your content funny, thrilling, or your goal. Upgrade as you grow.

What’s a TV series bible, and why do I need one?

A series bible lays out your show’s world, characters, and plots. It’s crucial for pitching your series because it shows networks or platforms precisely what your show is about.

Can I shoot a TV series on an iPhone?

Absolutely. It’s not about the gear but how you use it. Make sure your story is strong, and your production is as good as possible with what you’ve got.

How do I get my TV series on platforms like Amazon or Hulu?

Research where shows like yours are doing well and target those platforms. Create a killer pilot or sizzle reel, then contact networks and platforms directly or through industry contacts.

Should I ignore negative feedback on my TV series?

Yes, to a degree. Listen to constructive criticism, but ignore haters. Focus on your fans and improve your show with each episode or season.

What’s the best way to fund my TV series if I have a low budget?

Start small, use your networks, and consider crowdfunding. Once you have something to show, you might attract more funding based on the strength of your pilot or concept.

How important is it to know my audience when producing a TV series?

Very. Knowing who you’re making your show for guides everything from the writing to where you’ll try to sell it. The more you understand your audience, the better you can target your series.

What are the key steps to sell my TV series?

Develop your concept, shoot a pilot or sample, and pitch it to networks and VOD platforms. Be persistent, and don’t overlook any opportunity to showcase your work.

Can I produce a TV series alone?

While it’s a massive undertaking, it’s possible. You’ll wear many hats, from writing to directing and producing. Building a small, dedicated team, even if it’s just friends or volunteers, can help.

How do I pitch my TV series without industry contacts?

Leverage film and TV markets, use online platforms like Cinando for contacts and don’t underestimate the power of cold emailing. Your passion and a great pitch can open doors.

What if my TV series concept doesn’t fit traditional genres?

That’s okay. Originality stands out. Focus on creating a compelling story and characters that engage your audience. The right platform or network is out there.

How do I know if my TV series is successful?

Success can be measured in viewership numbers, critical acclaim, or achieving your goals. Know what you want, and keep pushing forward!


Here are some key terms mentioned in the guide to producing a TV series that people actually watch. Familiarizing yourself with these terms will further help you navigate creating and distributing your own TV series.

TV Series Bible: A comprehensive document that outlines the fictional world of your series, including characters, plot, setting, and other essential details that a potential network or buyer needs to understand your vision.

VOD (Video On Demand): A system that allows users to select and watch video content of their choice on their TVs or computers, including platforms like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Hulu.

Pilot: The first episode of a series used to test its viability. It serves as a proof of concept to networks or streaming platforms.

Production Value: The overall quality of the technical elements of production, including cinematography, special effects, audio quality, and set design.

Crowd Scene: A scene in a film or TV series that involves many extras or background actors, often used to depict public spaces or events.

Sizzle Reel: A short, fast-paced video montage highlighting the best aspects of a TV show or movie, used to pitch or promote the project to networks, investors, or the public.

Marketplaces: Platforms or venues where TV series can be pitched, sold, or distributed, such as MIPTV, MIPCOM, RealScreen, and NATPE.

Cinando.com: An online database used by professionals in the entertainment industry to find contact information for people across the film and television sectors.

Production Budget: The total cost of producing a film, TV show, or series, including expenses for talent, crew, equipment, locations, and post-production.

LetterKenny: A Canadian TV series mentioned as an example of a show that started with low production value but gained popularity and funding for higher quality production.

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Tom Malloy is a film producer, actor, and writer. Over the course of his career, he has raised over twenty-five million dollars to produce, and distribute multiple feature films. If you're ready to "level up" your film producing, make sure to check out Movie Plan Pro. The video training and downloadable film business plan template will provide you with the same tools Malloy uses when approaching prospective film investors.