There are two primary methods of television series acquisition: a national network can purchase the series or the production company can offer the series as a first run syndication program. Production companies prepare creative briefs and then pitch them to network executives. Obviously, if the series is picked up by a national network, there is less chance of the productions company �losing their shirt� so to speak. If the production company has a proven track record they may be able to get a network to order a specific number of shows or at least order a pilot of the show from the creative brief. An hour show will have a two hour pilot movie and a half hour show (usually sit coms) will have an hour pilot aired as a special. The second method of television series acquisition is to first-run syndication.
First run syndication is a method of television series acquisition that involves a production company producing a pilot of the show. If the production company doesn�t have a proven track record they may have created a standard pilot at their own expense in an effort to sell it to a network. But, if the creative brief was rejected by the networks, the company may produce a shorter pilot or just several episodes of the program to sell as a first run syndication.
National networks have been producing feature length �made for television� movies as added viewer attractions to boost their ratings. These movies usually air during the �sweeps� periods when ratings are being calculated. But as more specialty networks have been started as a result of the larger audiences available through cable and satellite networks, many networks are doing television series acquisition by establishing their own in-house production companies or hiring a production company to do the work for them. However, it these cases the network owns the series, not the outside production company.
The methods of television series acquisition have been gradually changing as the entire entertainment industry has had to change to accommodate all of the new technology constantly being introduced at what seems to be a rapidly increasing rate. Who knows what new forms of television series acquisition are just over the horizon waiting to be introduced?