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What Role do Studios Play in the TV Industry?


With so many timeslots to fill, often times a network won’t want to put in all the risk to finance a television show. This is where a TV studio steps in. Studios are responsible for the production and financing of its TV shows. After the episodes are produced, the networks license them from the studio and air them on TV. So it’s actually a misnomer when you hear a TV studio ‘selling’ a show to a network. They’re actually ‘renting’ it out to them to air on TV. Once that episode has aired,  the studio maintains ownership of that television series in perpetuity. So even though NBC broadcasted FRIENDS when it was still on the air, it paid Warner Bros Television group for the distribution rights. And every time an episode of FRIENDS is syndicated, the channel that broadcasts the episode pays Warner Bros a license fee. So that media conglomerates can benefit from both the ownership and broadcast of content, they will vertically integrate and create a studio that’s supposed to lease (sell) its content to their network. For example, FOX network caters to 20th Century Fox TV Studios and vice versa. In this way, when 20th Century Fox TV produces a show like BONES for FOX network, News Corp (which owns both companies) will benefit from both the broadcast and the ownership of BONES. There are rare occasions where a network doesn’t buy from it’s respective studio in which case the studio is free to sell to any other network. For example, THE MINDY PROJECT is produced by Universal Television (NBC’s primary studio) but they sold the show to FOX Network. Most television studios will also have an additional division that specializes in developing content for cable networks. Here are the to television studios along with their “cable TV division”

  • Sony Pictures Television
  • Warner Bros Television / Warner Horizon
  • Universal Television / Universal Cable Productions
  • ABC Studios
  • 20th Century Fox Television / Fox 21
  • Fox TV Studios
  • Lionsgate Television
  • MGM Television

20thcenturytv_TV WB TV

Sony_Pictures_Television NBC_Universal_Television_Logo_2011


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