This is the first article in a 5-part series, “Getting Into the Content Development Game.”
WHAT IT TAKES
How many times have you sat in a creative meeting at your studio or agency and said:
“I have a great idea for a TV show…”
Or perhaps you’ve said this similar statement:
“I personally know this great talent… that deserves their own show!”
Hitting closer to home, maybe while watching your favorite TV or OTT series (for which perhaps your studio even produced the promo?!), you thought to yourself:
“I could do better.”
We’ve all said these statements. Because those of us who create high-impact, short-form works (commercials, promotions, entertainment marketing, and the like) are convinced we have what it takes to produce brilliant long-form content, too.
If you’ve said these things, then my question to you is: what’s stopping you?
EVERYONE WANTS TO GET INTO CONTENT
Your creativity need not be limited to doing the work of your clients… and to the exclusion of yourself. How would producing content for a wide audience move you closer to accomplishing your big, crazy, lifelong goals?
This past February at the PromaxBDA Creative Entrepreneurs conference in New York City, Tim Thompson casually asked the room full of agency / studio owners:
“Who here wants to get into content development?”
Nearly every hand went up.
Around that same time Tim and fellow RevThinker Joel Pilger were in discussions with me about the industry’s need for guidance on how to get into the content game. All those hands going up at once was a moment in time which symbolized a very real need. What came next was a no-brainer: I joined the RevThink ranks as Content Consultant.
NOT UNDESERVING, JUST UNTAPPED
For 15+ years, my career focused on content development, busily creating and producing series for household names in television such as VH1, A&E, HGTV, Travel Channel, AMC, Food Network, Nickelodeon, MTV, USA Network and more.
Leaving a very comfortable employment situation, I felt it was time to launch my own firm, CORE Innovation Group. At CORE-ig, I help large media and Fortune 500 companies develop and improve their content strategies. In the process, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with numerous production and post-production studios.
And guess what? I’ve come to a powerful realization:
- There are many amazing – yet untapped – creative firms capable of developing content.
- Each of these firms rightfully deserves a seat at the content development table.
A few firms have crossed over into content development but for most, the chasm seems insurmountable. And as a consultant at RevThink, I’m on a mission to bridge that gap.
WHAT IS CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
Before we go on, what do we mean by “content development.” For purposes of this discussion, I define it as:
Content Development: the business of developing, pitching, selling and producing content that is a valuable end product on its own (not a work of marketing or promotion) – often known as “entertainment” content.
Your studio or production company currently creates work which supports content developers. Your commercials and promos help viewers (i.e, “eyeballs”) navigate a distribution platform (i.e., “TV network” or “OTT” or “brand”) to find the shows (i.e., “content”) produced by the content developer (i.e., “production company”) that the viewers want to watch. In effect, your work facilitates the goals of the distributor and the content developer.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with producing work-for-hire. After all, the incredible projects your firm produces literally propel your clients forward. But for those who raised your hands to Tim’s question and hunger to develop content that is an end product in itself – distributed via TV, OTT, digital, social, etc. — I am here to encourage you step forward.
STEPPING INTO THE GAME
How do studios and agencies get into the content development game? First and most importantly, know WHY you want to develop content. Don’t do it because you want to “express yourself creatively.” You already do that. Rather, if you see content as a outlet to spur new growth, deepen your expertise, and offer the world a unique point of view, you are good candidates for content development.
Desire is not enough to be content a developer. Desire won’t get you the coveted green light, nor push you past the vast (and experienced) competition. If sales is daunting for you in your existing niche, imagine it being much harder. In content development, it’s common for distributors to receive hundreds or even thousands of pitches every year. The competition is fierce. Just like you, everyone in the game is gunning to present the right project that will earn them a seven-figure production deal.
For you to jump into the fray and succeed, you need to be more than talented. And more than lucky.
You have to be strategic.
THE SECRET: THERE IS NO SECRET
There is not a secret to being successful in content development. Yes, you have to think smarter than the other guys. You must be willing to prove – at every stage in the process – that you are indeed “a player.”
From knowing what makes an idea sellable, to anticipating what distributors are looking for, to understanding how to secure talent, to creating the perfect pitch package, you will have to earn your place at the table. When done properly, you will prove to distributors and/or brands that you have the ideas that will grow an audience and achieve their goals.
4 STEPS TO SUCCESS
In the next four articles in this series, we will expand upon each of the following steps that are critical to your success in content development:
- Understanding Today’s Media Landscape
- Developing the Killer Pitch
- Winning the Room
- How to Make the Deal & Beyond
These 5 steps have served me well every time I’ve developed and created hit shows. But what’s taken me 15 years to develop, you need to learn quickly if you are to succeed in content development. Why quickly? Because as noted earlier, the content game is a crowded and competitive field. You need to be able to perform at the same level as all the other companies pitching ideas.
ARE YOU READY
Is content development right for you? If you don’t know for certain, I encourage you to fully understand the path that lies before you and make an informed decision. Getting in the game will require a big investment.
Are you already developing your ideas? Perhaps you have already been shooting, animating or editing content… but you don’t know how to get your show to market. Looking back, no doubt you’ve made large investments of money and time, and now you’re committed to seeing a return on your investment.
For firms that are fully committed to get into the content game – and win – RevThink is announcing a special program called ShowLauncher. In this 4-month long, intensive master class, I will be personally walking a select group of creatives through the entire content development process, step by step, using the strategies I’ve used to develop, pitch, sell and produce hundreds of hours of shows, episodes and series.
Based on the successful model of RevThink’s Creative Studio Jumpstart (our accelerator community of 40+ small studios from all around the world), ShowLauncher is designed as an intensive boot camp and community of up-and-coming content developers who are ready to put all the pieces in place.
Be sure to subscribe to RevThinking for updates on ShowLauncher or contact me directly.
FOR FURTHER LISTENING
Here are some helpful links to help you tiptoe into the topic of content development:
Your TV Show Doesn’t Belong on TV on the RevThinking podcast.
Reverse Engineered Content Strategy on the CoreCast podcast.
RevThink and I are excited to foster growth for all creative firms who aspire to achieve more. We embrace an optimistic view of a future that holds possibilities.
In the content development game, you may see yourself as an “outsider,” but I see your fresh outsider perspective as a powerful strength. With the right amount of strategic guidance, support and community, I know you will overcome the obstacles that have prevented you from winning in the content game.
The next step is up to you.
Patrick Jager is a Content Consultant at RevThink and CEO of strategic advisory firm CORE Innovation Group. He is a frequent speaker, panelist and author on the topics of media, brand, and business leadership.