How to Write a TV Proposal – First, Imagine Your Idiot

TV proposalA television producer once gave me a masterclass in how to write proposals for new TV shows. His advice was simple: “Basically, you’ve got to imagine that it’ll be read by idiots and tailor it accordingly”.

Not that all TV commissioners actually are idiots (Oh no.  Oh no no no no no.  Perish the thought).  But they do tend to be extremely busy people who receive an avalanche of information every day. If something doesn’t capture their attention from the start, they are unlikely to read on. They’re similar to journalists, who get sent dozens of press releases daily.  There are simply not enough hours in the day for each one to be read and digested thoroughly.

So when you’re communicating with the media, imagine that your message will be received by a 5 year old who’s got the Cartoon Network blaring and some new Lego they’d rather be playing with than listen to you. Capturing their attention is your main challenge, which you can do in a number of ways:

  • Say what you have to say in simple terms – no jargon or technical language. Stick to the facts and don’t waffle.
  • Avoid sending reams of information on a first contact. Keep all of your presentations visually clean and elegant – no faffing about with fancy fonts.
  • Point out the unique attributes of your proposed programme. What’s so different about what you’re offering?  What makes it visual enough for TV?  What will the viewer see?
  • Put a picture of Scooby Doo on the front. Or some chocolate. Works wonders every time. (Only joking by the way, although if you are in possession of a chocolate bar with Scooby Doo on the front then everybody will surely want to be your pal).

Sometimes the worst ideas become great programmes, and sometimes the best ideas are a right mess onscreen. For a TV channel to seriously consider your proposal it’s best to present it through an established TV production company.  Talk to Development Producers at TV companies who make programmes in a similar field to the one you’re proposing.  They’ll soon let you know if your big idea has a chance of making it or not.



I am the UK’s most experienced media career coach. To find out more,here’s my media coaching site.


  1. Thanks very much for your comment Valerie. I wrote this about a year ago and it still gets lots of hits from Google. I don’t think there’s much information out there about this topic, which is a shame because it’s clearly something people want to know about.

  2. Wonderful and nice post of “How to Write a TV Proposal – First, Imagine Your Idiot”.

  3. Wow. This is great. Thanks for sharing this with us. Knowledge is truly power and this is empowering.

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