If you’re one of the lucky ones who sell a TV show to a network, often times they’ll pay for your pilot script (or pay to have your pilot written if it hasn’t already been done so) and that’s the end of the road for you. They might even produce your pilot and never air it. I’ve watched dozens of pilots that have never seen the light of day. To avoid this, high profile producers/writers will demand a penalty in their purchase agreement. This is also referred to as a PUT PILOT. This means that if the pilot doesn’t get produced and aired on TV, the network must pay a huge fee to the producer/writer of the show. This can range for low six figures to low seven figures depending on the contract. On rare occasions, a deal may include a series penalty which means if the network doesn’t order the show to series, they must pay a penalty. Networks can also use this as a bargaining tool to incentivize the producer/writer to sell the show to them and not one of their competitors. Proven talent like J.J Abrams (LOST, ALIAS) and David E. Kelly (THE PRACTICE, CHICAGO HOPE) usually get this term incorporated into their contract.
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