If there’s one thing buyers have learned-from dealing with sellers-about how to sell a children’s television program, it’s ‘know your customer.’ Here are tips that several buyers would keep in mind if they were in a seller’s sh’es:
Benoît Runel, children’s program acquisitions, TF1, Paris
- Establish and maintain a direct relationship with the decision-maker for the acquisition: it’s easy to meet at least once a year at a market or through a personal visit.
- Speak with the buyer before sending him or her information on a program: results in faster response from the buyer.
Neil Hoffman, vice president of programming, USA Network and vice president of strategic program planning, USA Networks, New York
- Find out how the client’s current shows are performing, what’s working, and what’s not.
- Learn the company’s strategy and goals in kids programming.
- Assess the client’s financial models: How will the company pay for the show? How much will it pay?
Christophe Erbes, a former buyer for Premiere and Super RTM in Germany, who is now writing a children’s book in New York
- Don’t overpromise; especially avoid touting the show as an original idea when similar programs exist.
- ‘Hard selling is the wrong way of doing it.’
- Never rely on just the market: ‘If I had enough to sell, if I had a good library, I would go the channel, I would make some trips within the country, within the local market. That’s the best way to sell.’
Peter Moss, creative head, TV children’s programs, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto
- Determine the target audience of the client’s existing shows.
- Know whether the client airs commercials during children’s programming.
Theresa Plummer-Andrews, head of acquisitions and development, children’s department, BBC Television, London
- Know your product intimately, from the number of episodes to who stars in it.
- Watch the client’s existing shows.
Joan Lofts, director of programming, TCC, London
- ‘Be passionate about what you sell because buyers are passionate too.’
- Try not to put your buyers in a bidding war.
- ‘Most importantly, always keep your sense of humor.’
Susanne Müller, head of children’s programs, ZDF, Mainz, Germany
- Don’t show the buyer everything you have in stock: present only the shows you deem to be appropriate for the client.
- Don’t approach a client just because the company can pay a high price.
John Ford, senior vice president of programming, The Learning Channel, Bethesda, Maryland
- Send the buyer a proposal on the program, including the treatment, the budget, drawings or pictures, and the names and resumes of the production team, as well as samples of their work.
- Refer to the client’s current programming to prove that you’ve done your homework.
- Talk about what the client is doing, not what you think it should do.
- Avoid repeated phone calls: one ring to confirm that the buyer has received your materials is okay.
Howard Litton, head of program acquisitions, Nickelodeon UK, London
- First and foremost, know who to talk to.
- Presentation is important: ‘If something looks like people have spent a lot of time on it, if it’s very professionally put together, it’s very colorful, [and] the ideas leap out at you, then I think [the buyer is] more likely to look on that favorably than a plain old side of A4 paper that someone’s just scribbled on.’
Dale Taylor, vice president of programming and production, YTV, Toronto
- Find out who the client’s advertisers are.
- Know the regulatory framework in which the client operates.
- ‘Be cognizant of today’s sensitivities and society’s evolving tastes,’ such as attitudes towards violence.
- Accept ‘no’ as an answer.
Alessandra Valeri Manera, managing director, children’s programs, RTI, Milan, Italy
- Be ready to answer questions.
- Pitch a product ‘that you personally like or at least that you think can work.’