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Retain Ownership of TV Show – Entertainment Law Asked & Answered



Can you make a TV show, and still retain the rights?

Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.


Hannah asked if it’s possible to make a TV show and retain the rights. The short answer is YES.

The longer answer is “Yes, if you’re the PRODUCER/Production Company”… but otherwise it really depends on your position in the industry, bargaining power, etc.

Hannah didn’t say whether she’s a writer, a producer, or what, so I can’t say for certain…

Most TV Show creators are writers, so they depend on others (Production Companies) to provide the financial and other resources needed to actually get a TV show developed, produced and distributed. Those Production Companies hire the staff, production team, cast, crew, etc., and those production companies typically acquire ownership of the show’s concept, Pilot Script, etc., from the original creator. Then, because the production company hires and pays the writers (including the original creator) for the various episodes, the production company will be deemed the “owner” of the work those folks do.

Now, in Network TV, the original creator of a TV Show idea/story will often be able to negotiate an Executive Producer credit, and in some instances an E.P. Who is also a “show runner” can also negotiate to retain a (partial) ownership interest in the show, the format, etc., so that if the show goes into syndication, or format rights are sold in other countries, he or she will have a” piece of the action”

Of course, if you’ve got a show, and you want to produce it yourself, you can raise the financing, develop and produce some episodes, etc., and thus retain ownership. Then, you’d have to find a distributor for the show. This might be a network, syndicator, or an outfit like Amazon or Netflix. But relationships with those entities are hard to forge, so unless you’ve already got a track record in TV, it’ll be hard to get the traction you need. At least until you’ve got some episodes “in the can” to prove you can deliver a quality product on a tight production schedule. And even then, it’s going to be very hard. That’s why these production companies I talked about are such an essential part of the business.

In my 25+ years in this business, I’ve helped many TV writers, directors, and producers get shows up and running. Every step of the way involves a complex web of deals, financial structures, business entities, and rights clearances.

If you’re developing a TV show, I’d love to hear from you. Just reach out to me by scheduling an appointment to talk at

Or, if you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer here on Asked and Answered, head over to

See you again soon!

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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