The Ten TV Format Commandments

A TV Format is the concept or the formula of a television program. For example quizzes, games, series or shows. In the format, there are some factors, which are the same every episode. A format contains a base for the whole season of series so that you can expect how a single episode will be developed.

A good example of a strong TV Format is “the Voice”, an idea of John de Mol. He recently won an Emmy award with “the Voice” in the category Outstanding Reality Competition Program. The Voice is a talent show, where it is about the voice of the participants. The participants are being selected on their voices by blind auditions. The returning factors at this show are the turning chairs, the choice for famous people in the jury, and the family members filmed backstage. These factors make the Voice an example of a successful TV Format.

Which demands are required for a TV Format to be qualified for legally protection? We drafted a few guidelines for securing your TV Format.


The Ten TV Format Commandments

1. 1. Thou shalt keep your idea for a TV Format for yourself (for a while).

Only an idea is not enough to have legally protection. If the idea is elaborated, only then, there could be a copyrighted protection for your work. The work needs to be original and needs to have its own character. That means that the originator has made his work independent of other works, so the originator has to be creative.


2. Thou shalt not plagiarize.

The word plagiarism is derived from the Latin word for ‘child kidnapping’. Exactly, that is what actually happens. Someone steels your ‘brainchild’. In other words plagiarism is using a copyrighted work without permission and without references to the actual maker. The plagiarism perpetrator pretends like it is actually his work. In a TV Format a copyright will be spoken about if it is an original format. Do not steal the concept of someone else. The copyright law does not prohibit being inspired by others, but if two parties come with the same format, because the concept is so obvious, then the concept is not strong enough, so the copyright will not be strong enough either. The more original the concept, the stronger the copyright.


3. Thou shalt describe as much as possible.

Describe what your television show will look like. It does not need to be extremely clear how every episode will develop, but it needs to be clear what are the characteristics of your show. For example; Lotto Weekend Millionaires®. In this game show not only the game aspect is important but also the decor and stage setting. This show is licensed all over the world and in every country there is the same decor, light setting etc. This show played an important part in the Oscar® winning movie Slumdog Millionaire.

Characterizing aspects could be: introduction – location / positioning – atmosphere – style – length of the show (time and number of episodes) – rules – losing rounds (for example how does a losing round proceed) – the size of the production (small/big crew) – light setting, sounds – music – merchandise.


4. Thou shalt have a catchy title and an associated logo.

Everyone knows the brand, Big Brother®, both the name as the logo. Make sure you have an original, catchy title with an associated logo. Big Brother® as trademark protected, is licensed all over the world and it is so famous, that the maker earns millions with this concept.


5. Thou shalt think of characters for the show.

The characters are an important aspect of your TV Format. They give the show a face. Think of Oprah Winfrey of The Oprah Winfrey show. Visualize and describe the characters who are going to be the face of your format.


6. Thou shalt think in what market you will focus.

A Public Broadcasting will broadcast different things than a Commercial Channel. It is very important that you offer your format to which ever best matches your vision. Who will be the public and how can you reach the public best? Do you want to focus on the National Market or the International Market? It is important to think of these things.


7. 1. Thou shalt sell your TV Format as a Topseller.

Make sure that you make a presentation which is clear, so that no one can refuse your format. You need to act as a Topseller®. Prepare an elevator pitch, where you present your format in a couple of minutes.
⁃ What is the essence of the format?
⁃ What can the buyer earn from the format?
⁃ How does the format distinguish from its competitors?

Think of the wise words of Churchill: “Be clear. Be brief. Be seated.” No one is waiting for a report of 600 pages. The art is to verbalize on one paper why your TV Format will be a smashing success.


8. Thou shalt register your TV Format at

Imagine that you are sharing your idea for a TV Format with a producer, but the producer “is not into your plan” and after a few months you see a show on TV which looks exactly like your format. This painful situation can be avoided with CC Proof®.

With your registration in CC Proof® you get in a fast, simple and cheap way strong evidence of the date-of-birth of your TV Format. You can safely store your idea in our vault, invisible for others.


9. Thou shalt never sign anything without a lawyer!!

Use your brains before you sign something with a producer. If your TV Format is chosen then consult a lawyer for capturing the deal or to judge the juridical status of the offered contract.


10. Thou shalt share your TV Format with others, if these ten commandments are fulfilled.

It is common that someone is very enthusiast about his own new TV Format. Apparently it is for a reason if someone else, with whom the idea is shared, brings the TV Format (without telling the real creator) with success to the market. In this case of ‘missing the boat’ it could be very painful, certainly if the show appears to be a National or even International success. Make sure you are well prepared before you share your idea with others. This principle is valid for every idea