Date: Thu 30 Jun 2016

Contact a TV commissioner : Interview

Cultivating relationships with commissioning editors is hugely important, by understanding the type of programs a commissioner is looking for you can focus your resources on developing projects that may actually see the light of day.

We contact TV commissioners regularly, here's some advice....

Cultivating relationships with commissioning editors is hugely important, by understanding the type of programs a commissioner is looking for you can focus your resources on developing projects that may actually see the light of day. There's no point pitching a quiz show to a commissioner looking for period dramas. More often than not, actually making contact and developing relationships with TV commissioner is an easy task.
Often they are extremely approachable (though getting their update contact information can prove difficult, check out LinkedIn and Broadcast)

Developing a relationship with a commissioner doesn't necessarily mean all your ideas will get made into TV shows, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. gassProductions enjoys a good working relationship with Discovery Network International, we often contact tv commissioners there.

Our first TV series Rod and Rucksack was broadcast both terrestrially in the UK via Quest and internationally via Discovery's other channels. Recently we caught up with Rob Holloway, an executive producer at DNI (Discovery Networks International) who kindly offered some useful advice to those pitching for a commission from Discovery.

Who is Rob Holloway??

Rob Holloway is Executive Producer at Discovery Networks International (DNI), overseeing factual development and production for the network, which broadcasts in over 220 countries and territories. Focusing on series and specials with global appeal, recent credits include: Manhunt, Predators Up Close, Breaking Magic & Bear Grylls: Breaking Point. Rob also works closely with Discovery Communications networks in the US including: The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel. Holloway joined Discovery in 2011 from BBC History's International Development Team.

Discovery commissioners wish list

Categories of Show

Discovery TV shows often fit into the genres listed below:

  • Survival/Adventure
  • Turbo/Cars
  • Natural History/Wildlife
  • Talent/Characters
  • Popular Science
  • Science and Engineering

It's important to understand the channel you're pitching to. It's all very well having a great idea, don't assume a video production company will know what channel it should broadcast on, think about this before hand and pitch appropriately. You'll be more successful when you contact TV commissioners if you keep this in mind.

Budgets and Formats

Discovery have one of the biggest global broadcast networks in the world with a global reach of 3 billion people.. thats about a third of the worlds population. As such their program budgets reflect the need to provide the best programming available, reflecting their brand values. Discovery will consider all types of programme format and length.


Like all TV networks, Discovery are always on the lookout for talent to present TV shows. Rob was very clear on the qualities Discovery look for in a presenter, even if they may not have been on TV before.

  • Diverse Representation - Do the presenters represent the diverse international audiences of Discovery Network International?
  • Great on Camera -  Do they have a report with the camera? Does their passion and enthusiasm engage the audience. Presenters need to suck viewers into the show.
  • Speak English - Discovery are open to accented English and love non-native English speakers, as longs as its clear.
  • Passion & Knowledge - This is key, if the presenter is passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter it will carry through to an audience. Often having knowledge about the subject matter allows the presenter to question and interact far more naturally than someone who is unfamiliar with the subject matter.


DNI has several different channels and networks across the world, each of these has a different set of criteria when it comes to commissioning.
Quest (UK Digital terrestrial broadcaster) - UK orientated subject matter, 30 - 50's age demographic, mainstream programming e.g. Supertruckers, Salvagehunters.
Discovery UK - Generally UK characters/talent, often UK locations but keen to see international locations too. Shows often focus on survival, adventure, cars/turbo or engineering.

Traditional Discovery TV shows

To conclude, Rob informed us that Discovery is actively looking for shows that fit with it's more "traditional core branding". These are programs that feature "big international stories" or "exclusive" projects. Discovery is looking for "world first" opportunities that showcase diversity, drama, adventure and intrigue.

Want to pitch a TV show to Discovery?

Does your TV idea fit Discovery Network International's brand?  Why not send it to us ? If its good, we'll help develop it, contact tv commissioners and pitch the idea..

Need some help?

We've published a number of blog articles that can help you pitch your TV idea, the links are listed below. Recently gassProductions creative director Dan Radford did talk in London offering some advice to those pitching TV ideas or trying to get into the industry.
TV Production talk London

There are several helpful blog articles below:

How to pitch a TV show part 1
How to pitch a TV show part 2
How to budget a TV show