How To Pitch Reality TV Show Ideas

How to pitch reality TV show ideas examples from shows

Have a great idea for a reality TV show? Want to learn how to pitch reality TV shows?

How To Pitch Reality TV Shows

Despite what you might read in other places, reality TV shows are almost never purchased on the basis of an idea alone.  However, there are lots of reality TV production companies that are looking to purchase reality TV ideas, assuming you follow the expected submission guidelines.

If you are serious about learning how to pitch reality TV shows, here are three steps:

1. To sell a reality TV show idea, make yourself and your team look attractive to potential buyers.  Reality TV attorney Richard Jefferson has negotiated many reality TV show agreements.  He shares specific tips about what is required to pitch and sell a reality TV idea.

2. Learn how to pitch reality TV show ideas using the five magic words.  Experienced reality TV show producers Joke and Biagio (specials and pilots on A&E, The CW, Biography Channel, NBC, CBS, Discovery, E!, IFC, Logo, Oxygen, Style Network, VH1 and MTV) share the five words you must know to successfully pitch reality TV shows.

3. Produce a 2-5 minute promo reel of your concept.  A necessary component of any project is your ability to produce that reality TV show idea.

A 2-5 minute promo reel demonstrates your concept and your ability to execute the concept.  Fair or not, there are thousands of people trying to sell reality TV shows and the only ones who are taken seriously are the ones who have invested the time and developed the skills to actually do the job.  When you have produced a compelling sizzle reel, you can contact reality TV production companies.

4. Partner with an established reality TV producer.  If you haven’t sold a reality TV show idea before, the factor that will make the biggest difference in whether you sell your reality TV show idea is if you can attach an experienced reality TV producer.  Focus on finding a producer who has credits in a similar genre to the show you want to pitch.

Warning!

Beware of any reality TV production company or service that charges fees to submit ideas.  Established reality TV producers do not charge fees to consider reality TV ideas.

Here’s a helpful article from Dan Abrams, Supervising Producer of The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie.  This article series is from the Producer’s Guild Of America.

Outdoor Room Jamie Durie HGTV How To Pitch Reality TV Show

Part 1: Why Make A Sizzle Reel (Oh, and, er, what’s a sizzle reel?)
Part 2: Turning Your Great Show Idea Into An Effective Sizzle Reel
Part 3: Making The Sizzle Reel
Part 4: Using Your Finished Sizzle Reel

Here’s an example of the reality TV sizzle reel for Myles Of Style on HGTV:

If you’re looking for a legitimate conference to make connections and learn from established reality TV producers and executives, check out Reel Screen Summit and National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE).  You can download a complimentary copy of the 2014 NATPE Pilot Bible, provided in partnership with Variety Insight, to access a complete guide to the new group of broadcast shows including the specific producers on each show.

If you have an idea for a reality TV idea, but you aren’t sure where to start, I recommend the podcast Producing Unscripted: Make Reality TV Shows And Documentary Series for excellent free advice about how to pitch reality TV show ideas.

Finally, if you want to make a great impression when meeting with reality TV production companies, get the FREE eBook: How To Take A Hollywood Meeting now.

Screenwriters-How-To-Take-Hollywood-Meeting-Free

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106 Comments

  1. I have completed my sizzle reel and written pitch. I attempted to submit it to Joke and Biagio but there is a disconnect in communication as of right now. Besides them how do I find legit and reputable production companies to review, critique and possible represent my idea/reel? I have done internet searches (which is how I found them) but I know a level of confidentiality should be attached to the project so I can’t submit to everyone that has a website.. How do I determine which production companies to potentially work with?

    • Submissions to any company website have a very low rate of success. Your odds increase dramatically when you are working through personal recommendations and referrals. This could mean working on reality shows in any capacity and/or attending events where reality producers are speaking or hearing pitches like Real Screen Summit. This may be disappointing to hear, but most people who sell reality TV ideas start working in reality TV, develop a great reputation and make connections, and then are able to pitch and sell original ideas.

  2. Hello, I think I have a great ideal for a game show that everyone will watch from young preteens to mature audiences , please call 209-3272282, thank you

  3. I really have a good tv show in mind. I would like to sit down with someone or discuss it with an agent over the phone. Please email me. I strongly believe this could be the next big show!

  4. Hi! I need your help. i have an idea that can help the idols shows make millions of dollars all over the world were idols are showing. I live in south africa and sa idols is starting today. Truly speaking am so sade because i don’t know what to do. How do i sale my idea? please help. please call me. +27739944232. My facebook page adress is Musungu Mutamba.

  5. I wish someone would make a spin-off series of bridezilla, something like “I’m a Zilla” it could be about business people, or people going to a family reunion just normal everyday things, if this show did happen I think it would be fun to go on there for when I do the cons that I go to, at the end of the episode I was say something like “I’m a con-zilla.”

  6. Media travel drama comedy all in one. I’m a contractor to some major media companies and would like to put what we do into a show format. Any one with the know how to assist lets talk…

  7. Hey Stephanie, me and my dad found a website that has people request grave stones to be found in certain cities. For example, “Robert Davis Born 1845 Died 1923″, then what ever city and Graveyard he is in. People all over the net have a need for people to go look for their loved ones gravestones because they are really far away or may be disabled. Me and my dad have been going around finding these graves and taking pictures of them for the families. I thought it would make a really cool show called Grave Hunters. You could have really dramatic points where you think you have found the grave your looking for and let downs when it’s not. Also the occasional cop pass by and ask what your doing. The audience could also interact with it as well by posting there missing gravestones on the site and us maybe go and find it.

  8. Hi,
    Me and my friend came up with a great idea for a reality show. This reality show will not only show entertainment and drama, it will also show a message that can help so many young people in our society. I would love to tell you more about our ideas. Please email me.
    Thanks, Awa

  9. I noticed that all the people on the show lose massive amounts of weight. I think there should be a show called “survivor of the fittest” or “survivor of the fitness” Survivor rules and challenges but with overweight contestants. I would like to be on a show like that.

  10. I have an ideal for a reality show. My husband and I been married for 8 yrs and been together for 19 yrs and we have 7 children together. We’ve had our ups and down but we really would like to began an reality show. He’s a public school teacher and I’m a full-time manager at fast-food. Our oldest is about to graduate highschool and youngest about to began kindergarten, house is full of life and energy. So just let us know.

  11. My question is how would one begin the process.My daughter and I both share interest in out story being told. I have been married to her father for many years and he decides to leave. so like many single, parents they are left to raise a child who has bared witness to the mental, physical and verbal abuse of life at home and a teenager who questions his/her on sanity as a result. Many financial obligations and unemployment issues. I am sure this story is like many others in the world who want to understand what has happened and what next in life, after being totally committed to one person.

  12. I have an idea for a reality show that is better than any show out there right now. You should do a show that helps homeless people in America. It can be anything from helping them find a place to live or get a job. Help them get back on there feet. Even if it is just getting the food, shelter and clothing on a daily basis that would be great. Think of how heart felt it would be to an audience if you were to take folks that are down on there luck and make there lives better in some way shape or form. There are so many reality shows out today that do nothing for anyone and are boring. Lets do something that actually helps people. I do not want any money from this show. I just want the homeless to be helped!

  13. I have a motocross track and school,open to the public located in Creston WVa. It’s not a typical track, looks like a golf course with a track on it. It’s called The Farm I opened it and word of mouth packed it, I run it like a bar, behave or out you go. I got scared of to many people and stopped. I have a neighbor from Boston he bought his farm on line, needless to say we’re not buddies. Every weeks different, so many topics it never quits. Ottis

  14. Hello, I have a great idea for a new reality show, called heaven or hell, based on my app currently now availible on google play, please check it out I have previousily pitch the shows concept, but lack of funds prevented going forward, kind regards, robert

  15. its a actor/actress mentor series where the judges vote who is a worthy candidate and the end result is a lead role in a major movie

  16. Hi

    I have a great idea for a Reality TV Show. I have watched “The Bachelor” for the last several years, and found it interesting but not really down to earth. As the romance part of the past shows are way to glamorous.
    My recommendation is to have a “Southern Bachelor or Red neck Bachelor”. The series would have a true southern guy with a real life down to earth job such as a logger, pulp mill worker, union worker, (nothing glamorous) a guy who likes the out doors and fishes and hunts has a down to earth family in a down to earth southern town. The applications for the ladies would have to consist of girls from the southern states. (same prerequisite of real life down to earth jobs).
    The only glamor would be the southern hospitality glamor that the Bachelor and ladies chosen to participate would create in the southern towns in the south.

    A lot cheaper to produce and a lot more down to earth and entertaining than the high rise hotels the girls are kept in, whats wrong with a Holiday Inn or Motel 6 for girls to stay in. The whole episode would be filmed around real southern roots. Back roads, dirt roads, rivers, hunting, fishing ect.

    I just think the viewers and audiance would be so entertained with real life down to earth people doing a show like this.

    Sheri Courson

  17. Hello Stephanie, I have an idea for a reality T.V. show. I am a Union Bricklayer (Mason). As technology has changed over the years the younger generation has became more steered towards technology. This is becoming a big problem in the Masonry construction trade. Masonry work is a very physically demanding trade. The younger generation don’t want to work that hard. The problem with this is, the oldest construction trade is on its way to extinction. The average age for a Mason is in his forties. I feel that a televised show about SAVING the OLDEST CONSTRUCTION TRADE there is will generate interest. If Hunny boo boo has a reality T.V. show then so should SAVING the OLDEST CONSTRUCTION TRADE. If you can give me any imput at all on this i would be grateful. I could be a great help in trying to save this trade. thank you so much.

  18. We build dairys do brewer’s we do cold drinks plants we do pharmaceuticals plants and we do oil refinerys and all off the pipe work is not done with drawing and most of it is done from my dad brains and seeing is believeing thanks fmfor ur time

  19. Ok I do have one of the best Ideas for a reality show. Sometimes I cannot believe it has not been chosen.It would be the most entertaining and fun Reality show in a long time Maybe ever. I wouldn’t ask for a fortune either a lump sum or per episode. for the rights to say Hey its my Idea ! Its a home run of an Idea for a reality show !.

  20. I have a great idea for a T.V. Reality show in which would have all the elements i believe that would create great drama, Suspense for the viewer and a whole different twist on the idea of voting out contestants but still keeping the ratings.I believe my idea will change the generation of today’s outlook on life, And what we depend on, But to only realize it is really not necessary. I will leave you with that,
    In appreciation of your time.
    Interesting?
    Stephane Tremblay
    chromer19701@yahoo.com for questions

  21. I am a Metis man from Manitoba. I have been thinking about spending a year in the bush alone this is not about man against nature but more about reconnecting with nature and personal growth. Yes i have skills I have worked in forestry/ prospecting/ horse farmer, Swift water rescue Tech etc. I am also a Sun-dancer and practice traditional spiritual believes.. I was planing on doing this anyway then i thought I would like to raise money to create a fund to teach primarily aboriginal youth the skills need to enjoy and heal in a wilderness environment and provide life long skills that they can carry though there lives and to pass on to others. grew up with out my culture and suffered as a youth but am older now and have a much better life. If you are interested please contact me via email. I understand that this has its risks and will be hard on me at times but the sacrifice would be worth the good it could bring for others.

  22. my name is kayla. im 20 years old and i live in Germantown md. my family and i have always said that we would make the perfect reality TV show with all the drama and crazy stuff that happenes in our life with my mom and her 2 boyfriends , my older sister who is bipolor lol , my lil sister who comes to see us on the weekends …her dad thinks she is a angel boy was he wrong lol…my lil brother who is a dork., and then there is me and my son , and oh boy we are own tv show in itself ..hes almost 2… but i would like some help trying to make a show. we were homless for like 6 months so they missed all the crazy parts lol but it seems to happen alot to us.

  23. I was thinking about a show about rebuilding church’s. Going into good church’s that need help with their building maybe repairs, how to deliver a message and how they help the community. It’s so many good church’s that need a blessing, repairs to their church’s, get more people to attend, you could have a host and special guess like; Yolanda Adams, T.D. Jake’s and Joyce Meyers can come on the show, kind of like extreme makeover but extreme Church over.. How can I get this idea out there to TV

  24. Is there anywhere I could find examples of a written idea someone has pitched to try and start a reality TV show? Something I could see what professionals want to look at?

  25. Hello Stephanie. I would like to pitch a big brother type rehab show for real people with three phases. Co-ed center with ultimate goal of a future. Involve ‘team’ of therapist, life coach, personal trainer and dr/oral surgeon. Beginning of third phase (for those who make it) would be makeover – their success is the success of the show. What do you think?

    • Hi Christine. This brief description is clear– that’s a great start. You are probably already doing this, but I would research the shows that have a rehab element like Celebrity Rehab and also a makeover/coaching element like Starting Over. You will want to be able to describe how your show is the same and different from the other shows in a similar genre. Best of luck to you!

  26. Do a show about everyday poor people in the hood working from paycheck to paychecks and tell me how the rating go skyrocketing high?

  27. If anyone has contacts, I’d like to do a reality TV show about my dinner show and entertainment business. I juggle and breathe fire, stuff kids into a 6 foot tall balloon, pick-pockets during the course of illusions and have a few concepts that can be highlighted each episode.
    Dan
    danchanmagic.com

  28. thank you ms Palmer for the information. it helps but i still am in the dark on many issues.You say the agent works on commission, but the attorney gets paid by the hour to pitch my idea. First can he pitch more than one idea at a time, and if he is getting paid by the hour how does a person know if he is being honest and doing anything at all for his money? Does the agent watch over him? should my first step be in speaking with a agent? and how do i go about that?

  29. Stephanie,We are starting one of the first legal RETAIL marijuana stores in Washington State since the legalization of marijuana. The show would star the two start up entrepreneurs and follow the trials and tribulations of the business start up, dealings with regulators and regulations, growers and pot farms (now legal in Washington), pot processers (now legal in Washington), our families (both close and extended), the law, our employees, and of course the most interesting customers in a small town, but close to a larger city, the pot buyers.
    I can imagine filming in places like pot growing farms, pot processors and packagers, and in our store. I’m sure we will have interesting characters in all the settings.
    The show would be a 30 minute weekly format.
    I’m not a writer – just one of the partners starting the business.
    Interesting?

      • Hi stephanie, I have a reality show idea about someone who criss crosses across the u.s picking up hitch hikers finding out their stories i e” trials and tribulations.” This idea recently after my cousin had picked one up and gave him a ride home and ended up spending the day in the mountains of West Virginia with complete strangers drinking whiskey, arm wrestling and playing the guitar. The whole time he had his phone on audio record and it was priceless what went on that day in the mountains of West VA. My cousin would be the absolute best host.

      • Thanks for sharing, Chris. Especially if you want your cousin to host, I recommend shooting footage so decision-makers can see why he/she would be amazing as a host.

    • Que pasa Aardvark!

      Great idea. Give me some basics: names, locale, business details and I will write a fictitious first episode for you…for free! And I do know some producers who will review the pitch. If interested, please send info to:kangovyrall@aol.com.
      HNY,
      Steve

  30. Hello,

    I have what I believe to be a exemplory idea for the next be reality tv series. I will not go into many details, but I have yet to see a series similar. This show both capatilizes on peoples good natured affection towards humanity, as well as its insatiable hunger for chaos and drama.

    I have absolutely no Idea what to do with this concept as my career interest lie elsewhere. However, I would be interest in promoting this if it provides as much cash as you previously suggest.

    Please email me

    BS

  31. TV show pilot with Rick Smiciklas from undercover boss Canada.

    Follow the truly fast-paced life of Rick and his incompetent yet lovable dysfunctional friends.

  32. Hello, I have an idea for a reality show about harness racing. This show would be about the guys like myself racing for little money and for the love of racing please help me pitch this idea. There are a lot of interim ting things behind this sport and plenty of intersting people and “secrets” to making a winning horse.

  33. hello, I have what I believe will be a great idea for a reality show, Iam not going to go into details on this forum but the show is similar to the show punked but funnier,there would be no scripts or anything for the show, if you can give any advice on how I should submit this to like A&E for example.

    • I am told that they will not deal direct to me, that i must get a third party, entertainment agent. my concern is do i have to come up with money on the front end or do the agent`s pitch it for you and get paid if they can sell your idea. If i must pay how is this awarded? I have over a dozen idea`s of a reality show, several game show idea`s and several tv series idea`s. Is there a one time amount or do i have to pay for each idea?

      • Entertainment agents are paid only on commission, as a portion of any deal they negotiate for you. Be suspicious of any agent who tries to charge you upfront. Entertainment attorneys, on the other hand, are typically paid per hour or per project (depending on the attorney and what you negotiate) and often require fees upfront.

  34. What about …..Dancing with the Pastors & a reality show regarding the process, leading up to the event.

  35. I am a professional entertainer bus driver working with one of the top coach leasing companies in the country. This would be a great way to show the drama, comedy and life of a Rock Star Bus driver.

    We could also bring in a green driver and train him or have a competition between new drivers and the winner gets to drive a huge name artist. It takes special training and not everyone is able to drive as safe and smooth as this job requires, and even if they do they may not have what it takes to handle some of the other challenges.

    This would be amazing it would promote the leasing company the artist the driver and be very entertaining. Not to mention the possible random shots of rock stars passing by etc…

    This is a very hard career to break into and one that holds a great deal of mystery to most people.

    I’m not much of a writer but if you like what I have presented I would love to get your help pitching this idea.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my response
    I hope to hear from you soon

    Sincerely
    James Brown

  36. I would like to pitch a realtiy tv show about my crazy family. Everybody says are life would make a great reality show. The name of the tv show would be Keeping Up With the Celestins

    • I am going to play the devil’s advocate here and say I really think the reality show market has reached the saturation point, maybe.

      I think it’s time for a new type of show, what is that new show?? I have my own ideas but I know it’s something that hasn’t been done on a national level before.

  37. I have an idea for a reality show and I would like to share it with you. Campground reality is my idea. We camp here in Butler Pennsylvania. If you are interested please contact me thru my email address I just gave you. Thank you!

  38. Was approached by Fremantlemedia NA this past May to take one of our games and make it into a reality competitive show. It just temporarly fell through this past Wednesday, with that said since they showed interest in our product it inspired us to pitch it elsewhere. What would you advise?

    • Hi Chris. I don’t have specific recommendations without knowing more about the project. In general, it’s great news that Freemantle showed interest. This likely means you have a commercially viable project. The first step would be to identify potential buyers who have produced similar projects in the past. I would also want to know why Freemantle fell out (if you know) as that would impact how you pitch to the next potential buyer.

      • Hi Laura,

        I don’t want to say too much about the game in a public forum. But it would have been a bridal competition. We host Customized Urban Bridal Competitions for the past 13 years here in Boston to high popularity and to high reviews. So with that said they arranged a meeting in Boston and we sat down with this VP of Development and came up with a pretty cool concept for a potential 2nd tier network within 30min. They told me it was exploratory, and we would touch base in the Fall and possibly talk about contracts and the next step. The conclusion is there was no interest in that sort of competition as of yet and of course we thanked them and they told us if anything changes they will let us know. So that where we stand today..On a slightly different note let me ask you do you think there is a market for a same sex wedding competition? My wife and I thought of that and it doesn’t seem to be anything on tv on that.

    • Hi Beth. Thanks for your question and this really depends of the specifics of the show you are pitching. But, in general, you would look for production companies who have produced shows in a similar genre and do your best to get your sizzle reel to them. This could be by contacting them directly, using your connections to get a meeting, having a representative share your work or attending an event like RealScreen Summit.

  39. I have an idea for a reality show for your network. I am a therapist in Baltimore MD, and our team of therapist would like to create a show that would express some of the times and lifes of teenagers in Baltimore and how therapist deal with these second chance adolescents in this area. Looking at the trials and tribulations of the youth and therapist throughout the course of treatment. Please respond..
    Thanks
    Dwayne Lodge

  40. I have a very unique living situation. My husband and I have custody of his two older children from his prior marriage, and a child of our own. I am an accountant, and he is a mechanic. Our daily lives are quite interesting due to the dynamic that is involved. I think it would make a great tv show, especially considering the local police and sheriff’s office know us personally because of the situation. How should I go about pursuing this?

  41. I am developing a fantastic idea for a reality show (no, really), and am unsure on how to proceed. I sense that I should have an attorney first, so the idea isn’t “stolen,” I really feel it is that good. I can see a franchise in the works, but again, am not sure on how to proceed…

  42. Scott, do you recommend asking the production company or network to sign a non-disclosure agreement before giving them all the details of a written treatment?

  43. I have an amazing idea for a tv show, however my husband and I don’t have the finances available to copyright, join a site, or hire an agent. The only “film eqipment” we have are our cell phones. I want to get started right away on filming, but its a video diary /reality tv show based off of whats happening in my life now , i think it will sell big and it might even help people out, but I can’t hold the camra phone and do what i have to do at the same time, any suggestions?

  44. I am a mother of two biological kids with 15 +- grand kids. I have adopted two foster kids and have went through at least 25 kids as a foster mom, I seen enough, been through enough to make people laugh with tears and cry for my pain that I endure with the many ailments that’s been put on me.

  45. Hi Scott, I have a lot of experience in producing Bonus material for DVDs and producing hosted shows for networks like TNT. I have however never sold a show of my own. I know how to write, shoot,direct and pitch. I own my own equipment shooting and editing. Should I go ahead and shoot my pilot with 10 episodes and then pitch a network? My Networks don’t do reality. Should I just call them when I’m done and set up an appointment? Your advise would be wonderful. Thanks

    • Hi Cynthia,
      Great question! And I find myself in a similar boat. I was wondering if you ever got an answer to your question about shooting the show yourself.
      I would love to hear any input you have.
      Thanks very much.

  46. I have what I know could be really good show it is how to start where to being at that I need help in.

  47. I pitched a reality television idea to a production company. They sent me a shopping agreement to sign…I cannot afford an attorney and finding an agent is like pulling teeth. Any suggestions so I don’t sign my life away. Thanks

    • It’s great that you have a company that is interested in your work and this is exactly the point at which an attorney should be involved. If you can’t assess the fairness of their contract yourself (totally understandable), you want an expert opinion because as a rule, you should never sign something you don’t understand. As a place to start, there are a number of examples of agreements on the DoneDealPro website including this shopping agreement to compare to the one you received: http://www.donedealpro.com/members/details.aspx?object_id=477&content_type=1&section_id=13

      • Thank you – I wasn’t able to compare your shopping agreement to the one I received – it was much different; however, I will be sending amendments to the attorney for the production company and include some points I read on your site. Again, thank you. I know I am very fortunate to be given this opportunity :)

    • Hi Suzy,

      I haven’t heard of anyone selling their show through New Show Studios, but it doesn’t mean that they haven’t. I would ask specific questions about the outcome you can expect and if you can talk to any past or current clients. A reputable company should be happy to provide these. I recommend this with any service you are considering. If you do work with New Show Studios, I’d be interested to hear about your experience.

  48. I have a great reality pitch , how much of the pitch do I tell a producer without having and legal documentation. Don’t want to use my idea without buying it or giving me credits?

  49. I have such a great idea for a reality TV show that will make millions that I’m super excited but I don’t know where to start and I don’t know who will listen to me.

  50. Great article. My company is currently working with a production company to produce a reality series,and pitch it to a network. Thanks for the info in this article. It’s very helpful.

  51. Great interview! I would mention that anyone pitching a Reality Show that has a sizzle reel will want to make sure they have all their legal clearances in place. Consent and release location agreement etc..

  52. Great piece of information which will be taken into consideraton… as i will
    be taking on board when i pitch my new tv show bible. Thank you!!!

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