With the growth of digital channels and VOD it is getting easier to get your short broadcast on TV.
- Film Markets
- Broadcast Rights
- Which channels buy short films?
- Cable & Satellite
- Digital TV/Video On Demand
- Other Resources
- Related Guides
- Help us improve the Filmmaking Guide
TV stations have acquisitions departments who are in charge of buying completed short and feature films. Broadcast acquisitions executives will source films through:
- Film Markets - see below
- Film Festivals - see our Filmmaking Guide: Festivals & Awards
- Distributors - see our Filmmaking Guide: Distribution
- Online (for shorts) - see our Filmmaking Guide: Online
The following is a list of some of the film markets where broadcast acquisition executives will go to watch films and be pitched to:
Mip TV and Mipcom: Based in Cannes, a twice-yearly TV market, where deals to acquire for TV rights and online/interactive rights (MipCom). To attend, you need to register as a delegate and book meetings with buyers well in advance (contacts can be found in buyers guides which you receive once a delegate).
AFM: The American Film Market, based in California, is where the US go to source films for various platforms, including theatrical and TV. www.ifta-online.org
Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Market: Part of the annual film festival, this is where international buyers tend to find and acquire their quota of short films for the year. You can submit your film to the festival and the videotheque, and if you register as a delegate, you can use their useful online service to find and book meetings with Buyers in attendance. www.clermont-filmfest.com
Cannes Film Festival Market (Marché du Film): The annual prestigious festival has a market where international buyers compete over acquisitions of the best feature films in the festival. Films that have not shown at the festival are equally available to acquire. Again, delegate registration is necessary to be able to access the market and contacts lists for buyers.
There is also a Short Film Corner at Cannes, where filmmakers/ short film distributors can meet with buyers, though feature films are by far the main focus here. www.marchedufilm.com
Sundance Film Festival: As previously mentioned, Sundance is the leading US indie festival. Many buyers, particularly from North America, attend the event to see what is new and compete over popular feature titles. The short film programme is also important, though there is no official market. If your film gets into the festival, you will probably generate acquisitions interest in your film. festival.sundance.org
Berlinale: Long-running, prestigious German film festival, which has a delegate area, where buying meetings can be booked. Again, the focus is much more about feature films, but shorts do get a look in, and winners of the Silver/Gold Bear awards will probably generate acquisitions interest. www.berlinale.de
You may have the opportunity to sell the broadcast rights in your film to a broadcaster. The terms of the broadcasting rights depend on the agreement you sign with the broadcaster. For example, the agreement may be for a one-off broadcast (within a defined period of time) or for an unlimited or fixed number of transmissions. It is likely that there will be a clause in the contract dealing with exclusivity which may prevent you from selling the broadcasting rights to other television broadcasters within the same territory. Most broadcasters will require that you have obtained all the underlying rights in the film before agreeing to the contract. See our Legal Guide: Rights & Clearances Checklist. The contract will probably also include information on assets required (see our Filmmaking Guide: Press & Publicity Materials). Most channels will require broadcast quality versions of your film (such as DigiBeta & Beta SP tape).
For a list of broadcasters who show short films, see our Related Links: Recommended Watching
Filmmaker question:"I have sold the broadcast rights to my film to a Canadian broadcaster. In the contract they ask for exclusive rights in Canada. I now want to stream my film online. Does this contract conflict with the contract that I've already signed?"
Answer:See our Legal Guide: Filmmaker FAQs section
For films being broadcast on television, Ofcom has a “watershed” system, where films with an adult content will not be shown before 9:00 pm, the current watershed cut-off point. Some films may have scenes of an adult nature cut from them in order for them to be shown before the watershed. Access to Ofcom's guidance on the watershed can be found at: www.ofcom.org.uk/...
Which channels buy short films?
This can change, depending on whether the channel is buying for a specific programme series, acquiring for ‘fillers', or has a regular slot in the schedule.
In the UK, there are not many short film buyers for traditional TV outlets. Terrestrial channels rarely acquire and schedule non-commissioned short films. Channel 4 / FilmFour will occasionally acquire shorts as prefeature programming, or as part of a film season, where the selected shorts will fit their thematic focus. The BBC at present, only regularly exhibits shorts online (via Film Network), though the Film Network team are working hard to try and change that! Shorts programmes may also appear from time to time on the BBC digital channels BBC3 and BBC4.
In Europe, the scene and general audience are a bit more supportive, with channels such as Arte (France/Germany), Canal Plus (France, Poland, Spain), ZDF (Germany) and RTVE (Spain) all acquiring small numbers of shorts annually. Other European broadcasters which sporadically include Rai Sat (Italy), RTP (Portugal), RTE(Ireland), NOS (Netherlands) and SVT (Sweden).
Generally short film buyers pay per minute (anything from Euro50 – 250 per minute) and acquire exclusive rights within their TV territory. Channels may pay higher fees for films that have won awards, star famous actors or that have been made by known directors. Nobody is going to get rich selling shorts, whatever some people might think, but it is a good way of getting an international audience for your film.
Generally the paperwork and tax documents required by broadcaster are a lot of work – we would advise you use a short film distributor or agent, who have relationships with all the key buyers and will put the work in to chase slow payments. For advice on getting a distributor/sales agent for your film, see our Filmmaking Guide: Distribution.
Cable & Satellite
Over the last few years, a number of cable and satellite channels dedicated to short films have popped up around the world. In the UK, there is Current TV, Film24 and Propeller. For more information about these channels and links, see our Related Links: Recommended Watching.
Digital TV/Video On Demand
Video On Demand (VOD) is a service that allows viewers to receive and watch content either through a cable provider or a broadband connection. For more information about VOD, see a definition on Wikipedia.
Whilst VOD is mainly associated with offering catch-up TV services and movies on demand (pay per view), there is much talk in the film industry about how it can be used as a new form of distribution for short films (and eventually low budget features). Presently there are few VOD services offering short films and those that do, are internet-based. For more information about broadband TV/VOD see our Filmmaking Guide: Online.
Deals for VOD short film packages are generally negotiated through distributors (rather through individual filmmakers), so if you're still in the process of seeking distribution for your short it's worth asking potential distributors which channels and content providers they sell to. See our Related Links: Exhibition & Distribution - Shorts for a list of short film distributors.
Whilst there has been much speculation about VOD and pay per view services offering independent filmmakers the opportunity to make money from shorts, it is still very early days and little is known about what impact these services will have on film distribution.
Although much is still up in the air, these new forms of digital distribution make it an exciting time for independent and short filmmakers. Our advice with all of these platforms is be very wary of licensing exclusive rights to your film to any content provider/channel as you don't want your film to end up on a digital shelf somewhere!
Lux, the national agency that exhibits and distributes artists' moving image work, has produced a handy distribution guide with a section on television exhibition. Lux Distribution Guide: television
For more information on how to market your short, see our Filmmaking Guide: Marketing Your Short
For information about distributors and broadcast sales, see our Filmmaking Guide: Distribution
To find out what assets you'll need to show your short on TV, see our Filmmaking Guide: Press & Publicity Materials
For more information on what rights and clearances you'll need to show your film on television, see our Legal Guide: Rights & Clearances Checklist
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