Procedures to Start a Television Channel

By Dmitry Rashnitsov ; Updated September 15, 2017

Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corporation, owns dozens of television stations and uses them to promote his products and further his ideological goals. Like Murdoch, you, too, can own your channel and reap the benefits--but realize that starting a television station is not an easy task. It will take a great idea, large financial backing, smart programming that appeals to an audience and advertisers willing to support your product.

Create a Plan

The first step is brainstorming the idea for your television station. You want to create a niche channel that is currently not on the airwaves, or you may see a need to make a competitor for a current station. In today’s market, advertisers are looking for channels that have a clear message of what they want to say; therefore targeting specific demographics is the way to go. Once an idea is established, then you must decide what type of content will be on the station. If you plan on having original programming, then space for productions must be taken into account. If everything on your station will be produced elsewhere or taken from archives, create a budget for such fare and how much you are willing to spend.

Next, research a location for a headquarters. Things that need to be taken into account include how much space you will need and how much of that will be devoted to production; cost of the space build out and antennas for distribution; how many employees will you need; the creation of a website and the designing costs that go into that.

Once you have a plan for the channel and a budget of the cost to get it started, you will need to do focus groups and surveys to determine the interest by the audience in your channel. Once you have the plan, budget and focus groups completed, you can now take this information to investors.

Find Money and Set Your Schedule

You will need to write an executive summary detailing your plan. Some of the details that should be in the summary include station graphics, a programming schedule, demographics intended audience and a five-year success plan with estimates of return on money.

Once those documents are created, the plan will need to be pitched your venture capitalists or current media moguls. If the niche for your channel is related to a specific industry, pitch the concept to companies or people in that industry and detail to them how their products will be on display in your programming. Media companies tend to develop their own channels, but if you have an inside connection, they would be willing to hear your idea.

Once funds are secure, go forth with building out your headquarters and hiring employees. Remember a good source of cheap labor is recent college graduates, who want to break into the industry, and college interns, who are looking for experience. Hire a mix of seasoned veterans and new people to learn from them. You will need to hire people in sales, marketing, web, production, general managers, front desk, and accounting and on air talent if you have any live shows.

Build a website with minimal details about the new station and a target launch date. Now it's time to set your programming schedule. You will need to decide how much content will be originally created by you, how much will be purchased from archives and how much can come from other production companies. Many of today’s channels feature a mix of scripted and realty show programming. Although live shows are not around as much anymore, this is a premium moneymaker that advertisers are willing to pay more for. Put your schedule together for presentation to advertisers.

Distribution, Advertising and Launch

The first step is securing distribution for your channel on cable and satellite networks. Fortunately, companies such as Cox, Comcast and Time Warner and DIRECTV control a large majority of all cable and satellite companies. Once you are signed on with one or two of the big name distributors, the rest will follow suit. Each distributor will pay you a flat fee to carry your channel per subscriber. The more popular your channel gets, the more money you can make. Negotiate contracts and get the deals lined up as soon as possible.

Use the sales team to sell advertising for the station. While the distributors assist in that practice as well, more money will come back to your station if you do it yourself.

Ads are sold and it's time to launch. Have your marketing team come up with a creative campaign to get the word out about your channel and programming. Throw a lavish party and enjoy the excitement.

Once launched, conduct surveys and track data about viewer ship and modify programming. Continue to look for new and innovative ways to promote your self, attain new advertisers and improve your channel.

About the Author

Dmitry Rashnitsov is a writer based out of Fort Lauderdale. His work has appeared in the "Sun-Sentinel" newspaper, "South Florida Blade" newspaper, "Cape Coral Daily Breeze," "411 Magazine," "South Florida CEO Magazine" and the Examiner.com web platform. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arizona.