Commissioning Process

How do executives decide on the best shows to get produced and broadcast on their channels or platforms? The media and entertainment thrives on creativity and huge effort is put into finding the breakout hits and bringing these to the screen.

In this article, we take a look at who is involved in taking a show from an initial idea all the way to final broadcast on a channel or streaming platform.


Writers are the lifeblood of the media industry and without them, there would be no shows whatsoever. Larger production companies will have a development team who go out to secure writing talent. They may option the rights to produce a TV adaptation of a novel, or they’ll receive a draft script from a writer who wants to see their ideas turned into a TV show.

Development Team

Larger production companies will have a development team who go out to secure ideas for shows. They’ll take these ideas and gradually develop them over time, securing writing, acting and directing talent, while funding further script development. Ultimately, their goal is to turn an idea into a project that presentable to commissioners and senior management will pitch their projects to various broadcasters to maximise their chances of securing a commission – plus the funding that goes with it.


These people are working for the broadcaster or streaming platform that will present the show once completed. Many commissioners have experience in the production world and have a great eye for a show that could be successful – though they don’t always get it correct.

Commissioners are the gatekeepers to the project getting funding and they’ll be aware of the types of programming the channel needs. Those requirements are affected by the other content coming down the pipeline via commissioning and acquisitions, so commissioners will set out their requirements in advance.

If a pitch is successful, the commissioner will greenlight the project and will work closely with the development teams to refine the script further, plus they’ll be a key stakeholder in key creative decisions for the production. They’ll continue to work closely with the Producers, ensuring the production is on schedule and budget.

You can find out more about a Commissioner’s job on our dedicated profilepage:

Pilot Episodes

This is quite a common occurrence in the US, but the European TV industry also produces pilot episodes. These are standalone episodes which are produced and broadcasted without producing additional episodes. This is an incredibly useful way of seeing how a full series made perform if the commissioner chose to greenlight a series.

In the UK, pilots are often produced for new entertainment shows, also known as shiny floor shows, to see how they’ll perform compared to a timeslot’s average viewer figures. Several years ago, ITV had an entire season of individual pilots in a primetime Saturday evening slot after several major talent shows were cancelled for the year.

Final Thoughts

The world of commissioning is a murky one, but its easily explained with some business logic. Production companies will work with writers to develop their projects and Executive Producers will pitch these projects to broadcasters for funding.