What’s the difference between a Network, Studio, and Production company, you may ask? Well, you’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers. In this article, we will be discussing the difference between the three and what it means for you as the writer along the way.
Networks are the buyers of the TV world. People come to a network with an idea. The network purchases the idea, then guides it along to what will eventually air on the network. Networks develop relationships with studios and production companies to bring them in on deals where they see fit. The network oversees the entire production of each of their shows but they bring in studios and production companies to work in specific areas. When thinking about networks, think about places like: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and so on. Cable networks include places like AMC, BET, FX, HBO Max, Showtime and so forth.
Studios are the sellers in the TV world and the buyers in the feature world because a network is not a part of the feature filmmaking process. Studios are always looking for the next great screenwriters and/or stories to be told. In TV, studios help the screenwriter develop the pilot script for the particular Networks' brand in which it fits. The studio then sets up the pitch meeting to sell your screenplay to the network. If the network buys the TV pilot, it must then work with the studio to produce the show. Studios can often be a middle man in the television industry, but not all writers go through a studio to get to a network. Writers can pitch directly to networks or even production companies. The network can then decide if they want to bring in a studio as a part of the development process and to help finance the project. Studios can work with as many different networks as they choose. However, if a studio and network have the same parent company, of course they'd like to stick with blood, but ultimately, the studio is working for itself and looking for the best deals.
On the flip side, in the movie industry, writers pitch directly to studios that buy the content, develop it then work with production companies to produce it. More on production companies below. Studios include places like ABC Signature, Focus Features, Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures Television, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros. TV, the list goes on.
At this point, you’re probably getting the hang of things. A production company is a general name for many different types of entertainment entities that play all of the necessary roles in the filmmaking process. Some do exactly what it sounds like it does - handle the actual production of the project: budgeting, scheduling, casting, the hiring of crew, post-production,etc. Others may be comprised of producers, writers or directors who develop content before also needing to pitch to studios for financing and distribution. Other production companies focus strictly on distribution and even fundraising/financing for production.There are even audio, visual effects, coloring and editing production companies.
Production companies can be owned by larger parent companies (the network) or totally independent. But because filmmaking is a collaborative effort, production companies are hired by studios and networks to help bring the project to life. Production companies include places like 3 Arts Entertainment, Array, Anonymous Content, Bad Robot, Harpo Productions, Village Roadshow, to name a few.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
You’re probably thinking it sounds like a network, studio, and production company do the same thing. Well, you're right! Kinda. Let me explain. They all work together to get programming on your television and distributed to the nearest movie theater. They each have a specific niche. In television, it’s the network‘s job to focus on branding the programming and buying within the brand. The studio is responsible for finding the right stories and writers for a network's brand, and the production company gets all of the people together to physically make the programming. In feature filmmaking, the network is cut out of the equation and the studio takes on its role.
Want to make sure your latest screenplay draft is ready for a read at a network, studio, or production company? Then check out our Development Notes where a TPP Story Expert will give you page-by-page story notes on your TV or movie idea to guide you in your scriptwriting journey.
Written by TPP Story Expert Khadija Roane
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