Pitching to the daytime commissioners

Phil Spencer Secret AgentWe recently attended BAFTA's Breakfast with the Daytime Commissioners, which proved Very Interesting Indeed.

Up on stage ready to be quizzed by Benji Wilson were Diana Howie, commissioning editor, ITV; David Sayer, commissioning and development editor, Channel 4 and Lindsay Bradbury, commissioning executive editor daytime, BBC.

We decided to plunder their industry expertise and come up with a round-up of advice when pitching your new idea to a daytime commissioner, some of it general, some specific, but we hope all of it valuable.

Be original

The daytime schedule is saturated with programmes on property, food, travel, antiques and police - so if you're going down that path, make sure your idea is brand new. Ensure that if you want to pick up on certain trends, eg British food, give it a twist, a fresh angle. Keep in your head at all times, "WHY would it work?"

Keeping it real

Try to ensure your idea relates to real people, and has a broad an appeal as possible. Overformatting is a common mistake. And high volume is important - does your show have the legs to run for weeks on end?


Know your audience

Knowing the channel's audience is really important before you pitch. Find out as much as you can about the demograph .For example, the BBC daytime audience is much more male-oriented than ITV, in simple terms, the BBC daytime viewers are more likely to watch a reality-driven crime show than a fashion magazine programme.

Alan Titchmarsh Show
Do your homework

If you are pitching to a particular channel, make sure you know its programme preferences and no-no's. Diana Howie for ITV mentioned the fact that their programme slots are always 60 minutes for daytime programming, so don't send a pitch for a half hour show.

And, very important, make sure you pitch to the right channel, department and person. For example, if you are pitching a drama idea to the BBC, you would send it to the daytime commissioners, not drama. But the case of ITV and Channel 4, your pitch would go to the drama commissioners. So, do some digging, and get the channels, the departments and the names right.

Incidentally, talking of drama, all three commissioners said that daytime drama budgets are very limited. The series that have done very well, such as Land Girls and The Indian Doctor, have been filmed in pretty stripped back locations - such as a field! And David Sayer said that a pitch for daytime drama for Channel 4 would be a very long shot. But they all agreed, you should never say never…

Scheduling is everything

Channel 4's David Sayer said that their biggest opportunity is currently the 5 o'clock slot. Three shows which have done really well here, and are returning, are Four Rooms, A Place in the Sun and Phil Spencer: Secret Agent. We got the impression they are actively looking for pilots for this window. But keep it light - this is the time of day which should be for shared family viewing: mum or dad with a (small) glass of wine, watching something with the kids before dinner and bedtime.

ITV are currently seeking ideas for the 2 o'cloc