What Are 3 Ways Networks Acquire Programming? | Here’s a Fast Look

by Stacey Parks


(1.) They acquire a finished program.

This is usually the least expensive option for a network, and where you, the producer stand to receive the lowest acquisition price (the exception being if you’re a Sundance Film Festival winner or something like that). Networks acquire their programs at both film festivals and film markets like AFM, Cannes, MIPTV, and MIPCOM.

(2.) They commission a program.

This is the option they go for when they want to own the film or program out-right. You become a hired gun, and create the program to their specifications. A&E only does business this way for example.

(3.) They engage in a co-production agreement.

This is actually the most common way a network acquires it’s content.

As you can see, worldwide cable and broadcast distribution is its own beast. I specialized in it for many years, and to tell you the truth, actually prefer it over other areas of distribution. Why? Because the television business is a real “business,” and broadcast buyers are eager to spend money to fill their programming slots. It’s much more cut and dry than the theatrical distribution world, and a much easier sell most of the time.

Stacey Parks is the author of “The Insiders Guide to Independent Film Distribution” (Focal Press). Her website is