MTV has evolved from a small cable channel that played around the clock music videos to a full function network with satellite channels. It is a global brand that represents youth culture worldwide. The type of programming it airs is diverse; game shows, reality TV, celebrity, scripted comedies and dramas, talk shows and anything else it decides to air. Getting a show on MTV is no small feat. MTV receives hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions per year. However, if you have a great idea for a show, anything is possible.
Develop a great idea. Make sure that it fits in with the material MTV airs. Watch MTV faithfully. Become aware of its style and its audience. MTV is a network dedicated to young people. This means its programming taste constantly changes. Do not pitch the kind of show it aired 2 or 3 years ago unless you have a new, updated spin on it.
Write a treatment of your show. This is a 1 to 5-page document that lays out the premise of your show, its structure, and why it appeals to people. For a scripted show the treatment will include more detail such as characters and plot.
Register your treatment with the Writer’s Guild of America after you have finished writing it. This is a process that legally protects you in the event someone attempts to steal your idea.
Search online for MTV’s contact information. Or use a film/television resource manual such as the Hollywood Creative Directory. Research the production personnel for the development department. Personnel changes all the time at a network so make sure your information is up to date.
Contact the network through email or phone to confirm that the person you want to reach actually works at the company. MTV is one of the few networks that accepts unsolicited pitches. When you contact MTV, ask for its pitch submission guidelines.
Submit your material to MTV according to its guidelines. MTV may want an email submission or regular mail. Be sure to follow MTV's directions.
Attend writer’s pitch conferences. Armed with your treatment, attend events where MTV executives are openly accepting pitches. MTV attends these types of events regularly. Present your treatment, or be prepared to give a verbal pitch.
If at all possible try to get an in-person pitch meeting with one of the development executives.
MTV also develops shows in accordance with VH1, CMT, LOGO and the Nickelodeon channels. If your pitch works for one of the other channels let MTV know. Also, if you can develop a different version of your pitch that could be adapted to fit the mandate of the other channels, it is worth the effort to do so.
Do not pitch your idea to MTV on its website or on a blog or forum post. MTV will not consider this a pitch. Even worse, anyone could steal your pitch since you have no legal protection.
Get a job at MTV. The network actively recruits interns to work in different areas. As a company that does a lot of in-house development, talented employees always have the fast track on pitching ideas.
Most pitches come from professional writers and producers. It is their job to sell material to networks and they are good at it. They have agents, managers and talent relationships that make them more attractive than buying an unsolicited idea from an unproven person. If MTV does buy your idea, you will likely be relegated to a lesser role while professionals handle the running of the show. Or worse, you could be paid off and fired.
Based in Los Angeles, Ty Wright has written professionally since 1993, working primarily in film and television. His articles have appeared online at MadeMan. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in film and electronic arts from California State University, Long Beach.