Lawyer for Independent Media | Sue Basko
First, you need to have something specific enough that sponsors can look at it and decide they will want to sponsor the show if it is accepted by a television network. What is specific enough? For some potential sponsors, a pilot show will suffice. Others may wish to see completed shows. Others may agree to sponsor the show based on the strength of the preproduction plans, scripts, and agreements. This is especially so if big name talent has agreed to be actors, the director or producers. Once you have something worth sponsoring and you have sponsors in mind, you will get a small agreement written up. This is like an option saying that if the show gets picked up, this sponsor agrees to sponsor the show and how much money they are willing to give for how much air time. This will be backed up later by a more formal agreement. These kind of sponsorship agreements may not be so binding because they might be breached if any of the main talent that is supposed to work on the show backs out, or if any of the main people connected to the show get in trouble publicly or do anything unseemly that makes the sponsor want to back out. Sponsors have also been known to back out from controversial or distasteful episodes of a show and may have cause to back out fully. Sometimes shows decide not to air the particular episode in such cases. This is all a balancing act between the show producers, the show talent, the network, the sponsors, the audience, and the reviewing media. A big part of getting sponsors is to do your homework about what network is likely to want and need a show like the one you propose. Another big part is to get good talent signed on. A huge part is to have great scripts and a great pilot. If the cost of having a sponsorship agreement written is your biggest question, then I suggest you may not have done adequate preproduction and may not be in a position to get sponsors. If you need money to help with the preproduction, scripting, getting talent signed on, and making a pilot, the people providing that money are not really sponsors, but executive producers, production companies, and such. Generally speaking, in film and television, you cannot get investors who are providing only money and who are not actively engaged in the production process without it become an investment endeavor requiring SEC filings and oversight. If you are going after investors, most film investment lawyers will tell you it is an SEC undertaking, while some will write promissory notes between the investor and the production entity. It is illegal, and often criminally illegal, to improperly raise money for a film or TV show. The reason behind this is that such investments are extremely risky. The people investing are supposed to be vetted to be sure they are able to lose the amount of money they are investing. The SEC has specific rules on what are considered qualified investors. This is not an easy answer, but making TV and films is also not easy. There are many details and each detail requires expertise. Some movies and TV shows are being crowd-funded. You may want to look into that if you have a great idea, lots of good talent and experience, a great presentation, and people willing to back your plan.
Answer Applies to: California