What does a Commissioner do?
A commissioner is employed by a broadcaster or streaming platform and they’re responsible for deciding which TV shows get produced. Most commissioners focus on a particular genre – drama, factual, entertainment or current affairs are a few examples. Plus commissioners are often supported by Commissioning Executives or Assistants that take on some of the day-to-day admin running of the department.
Production companies’ development teams and Executive Producers will pitch their ideas to commissioners, who will decide whether to run with a project. A commissioner can recommend changes to the script to the development team before greenlighting the project. Sometimes, commissioners will issue an invitation to pitch to the industry, asking for ideas related to particular sub-genres such as period dramas – this is typically done when the broadcaster has a shortage of new programmes.
While a commissioner isn’t involved on a daily basis with a show’s production, they’ll participate in regular production meetings to ensure the show is progressing according to the schedule and budget. They’ll also be involved when choosing acting talent.
Commissioners will have a large slate of programmes they’ve given the go ahead and allocated budgets to. Therefore, all these responsibilities are often multiplied across each show.
What skills does a Commissioner need?
Creativity: Much like the development teams at production companies, a commissioner should have a good eye for a great show and understand what audiences want – both now and in the future.
Organisation: A commissioner often has multiple production meetings and pitches every week, so they need to be on top of their diary
Understanding of Rights & Budgets: The world of TV rights can be confusing, but they need to have a solid understanding of rights and the production process. Commissioners are also responsible for large budgets (excess of tens of millions), so they need to allocate that budget across multiple productions.
Who does the Commissioner work with?
Commissioners work with both production companies and their own colleagues in the broadcaster or streaming platform. On the production company side, they’ll often communicate with the Executive Producer, getting updates on the show’s progress and how the budget is looking. They may discuss changes to the script with the development team before greenlighting the project, plus they’ll often be involved in discussions with the key decision makers choosing the acting and creative talent for a show.
Within their organisation, a commissioner will work with a Channel Controller and scheduling team to ensure every show is given the best opportunity to maximise its viewing audiences – a top-end drama is shown on a Sunday evening rather than a Friday as there’s larger audiences at the end of the weekend. They’ll also work with the marketing teams to build anticipation for a show’s release.
How to become a Commissioner?
As commissioners decide which shows to put into production and how to allocate funding to different shows, they are at the top of the industry. Many commissioners join a broadcaster from a production company having gained plenty of experience in development and production.
However, commissioners are supported by a small team of genre assistants and executives, who share the same development skills as their counterparts at production companies. It’s certainly possible to climb the ranks within commissioning teams.
How much does a Commissioner earn?
The earning potential for those in a broadcaster’s commissioning team will vary based on their role, genre and seniority. However, our data indicates Commissioning Assistants can expect between £40,000 and £70,000. The next step up is a Commissioning Executive, who can expect £70,000 to £100,000. Finally, the lead Commissioner Editor, specialised in a particular genre can command a salary above £120,000 with no upper limit.
As commissioners climb the ladder, their earning potential can rapidly increase at the senior end. If they make the move to adopting a broader content role – including channel schedule management – then the sky is the limit. Chief Content Officers at the major UK broadcasters are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to oversee the content we watch.