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Aug 13

Make money by creating a TV game show format

Reading Time: 6 mins

TV companies are always looking for interesting programmes to keep their audience entertained.

If you are the creative type, you can make money by creating a TV game show format.

This is because these programmes are in high demand and really successful ones, like ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’, can make millions for the TV company and, over time, for the person, or team, who came up with the idea.

Be warned, though, a good format is a remarkably difficult concept to come up with. Even professionals can take years to create a good one. But if you’re a game show fanatic, you could be in a good position to come up with an idea.

What’s involved in coming up with a TV game show format?


Make money by creating a TV game show format

Basically, you have to think up an idea and sell it – easy money.

Well, unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds to make money by creating a TV show format.

To be honest, this is a very hard industry to break into, but IF you can come up with a good idea and hone it into a killer format, you may not have to work – ever again. To break into this industry, you need a lot of patience, and you must be very persistent.

You will spend a lot of time contacting production companies and probably never get a reply. Indies (independent companies) can be impossible to contact, will refuse unsolicited submissions, sit on your ideas for months, or quite possibly steal the best bits. Proving any of this later is, of course, virtually impossible.

Even if you get your foot in the door, there is no guarantee that you will ever come up with a winner. It can be a depressing business. It could take you years of trying and failing to come up with an idea that is even optioned, let alone bought.

If you’re the creative type though and have a passion for game shows, give it a go – you won’t know if you don’t try.


How do you make money by creating a TV game show format?

Make money by creating a TV game show format

Step 1: Brain storm!

This is a great excuse to watch TV in the name of research and making money! Study some popular game shows. Watch them regularly and work out what their basic elements are and what makes them work. The idea should be simple but fun. See if you can find an ‘ideas buddy’ with whom you can brainstorm and come up with formats together.

Putting a bit of reality into the game show, and vice versa, has opened up the game show format to more than the traditional three podium format. There is an endless variety of elements you can include in a game show – you just need to find the right ones that click. Dramatic tension seems to be one thing that makes a great game show, especially at key moments of choice for the contestant.

To really have a chance to make money by creating a TV game show format though, you need to let go of all your pre-conceived ideas of what a TV game show is, let go of traditional ideas and invent new ways of giving audiences entertainment programmes.

There are books and websites with tips on how to come up with a winning format. Try the Game Show Handbook, or this 7 step guide to making your own TV show for more ideas.

Step 2: Target production companies

Once you’ve got your idea, look at the channel’s website, or simply the closing credits of the show to see which production companies have made the most popular game shows. Target these with your idea.

Experience is the most valuable way to learn about what ideas companies will buy and produce. Regardless of whether your ideas are purchased, each time you pitch to executives in the industry you are building relationships with people who you can contact later and talk about how to make your ideas work.

Step 3: Presentation

Producers are busy people, so to ensure your script gets read, format it into a brief synopsis with a highly marketable ‘logline’. You should be able to fit the description of it onto no more than one A4 sheet. Hone it down to the simple rules and a few gimmicks and send it to TV production companies.

With your full script, ensure you have these headings:

  • Title of the show
  • Format of the show – Game Show
  • Author Name
  • Logline – a few sentences to describe your concept
  • Treatment – Synopsis or Outline. This is a detailed description of your show as it would be seen on TV, to interest or provoke the reader make sure you ‘show’ the reader what the audience is watching.

Bob Boden’s online video tutorial has ideas that might help you make money by creating a TV game show.


Case study: Hugh Rycroft – co-creator of Tipping point

Make money by creating a TV game show format

Hugh Rycroft, one of the creative minds behind the popular ITV game show Tipping Point found inspiration for his game show format whilst visiting a seaside arcade in 2003.

Hugh acknowledges that the game show industry itself is a tiny market and a very hard one to succeed in, “I estimate that fewer than 30 new game shows appear on British TV in any given year, out of the (literally) thousands of ideas that are generated… Having said this, in the specific case of ‘Tipping Point’, the fact that it DID finally end up on TV 9 years after I first had the idea suggests that persistence can pay off!”

So if you really think you have a great idea and you are serious about wanting to make money by creating a TV game show format, you have to be patient and persistent.


Tips from an expert in creating a TV game show format

  • For a complete TV ‘outsider’, by far the most important things will be to network with TV people. The best idea in the world will never make it onto TV if it never lands on the right desk! Not all production companies will look at unsolicited material, so write to them first before sending your idea, or check out their website.
  • Remember, a single, big slightly whacky or left-field concept, even if it’s not particularly well thought through, is far more likely to get someone’s attention than a show relying on more traditional game show themes, which development teams can think up in their sleep!
  • If you do find a production company that likes your idea, be open to them playing around and changing the concept, because on the whole these people do know what they’re talking about.
  • Persistence can certainly pay off – TV is littered with examples of things that were turned down dozens of times beforet hey became huge hits. Ideas can be rejected for all sorts of reasons, so keep trying. Likewise, if you keep trying you might succeed and make money by creating a TV show format.
  • Finally, for a complete beginner, the best pitch advice is to keep it simple. What you’re trying to sell is the unique and brilliant core concept at the heart of your show. Good luck!


How much can you make?

Make money by creating a TV game show format

As we’ve mentioned above, managing to make money by creating a TV game show format is a tricky business, so we wouldn’t advise you to give up your day job yet.

HOWEVER if you come up with a winning idea, the sky’s the limit!

It’s a very difficult industry to crack but if you really do love game shows and have the passion to commit and persist who knows what might happen. Just remember it often takes 40, 50 or even 100 ideas to be pitched before a TV station will consider buying one!

Regardless, once they buy it, you are in to earn big bucks because they pay an upfront fee ranging from $500 to 10,000 based on the show. Likewise, you may get a set-up bonus depending on how well you negotiate. There is also an on-stage credit standard fees and nominal percentage from the fees paid to the production company. The major income for you, however, comes from episodic fees, which is a percentage of the budget per episode. It ranges from 2-5% but is negotiable.



  • PACT – The association of Independent producers, where you can find most of the contact details you need.
  • Labyrinth Games – Puzzle and games consultancy behind many successful shows.
  • 2waytraffic.com – A Production company, now owned by Sony, that distributes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in the UK, USA and other countries.
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Debbie Mitchell
Debbie Mitchell
2 months ago

Hello, I am a game show fanatic. I also have a very creative mind. I believe I have an idea for a great, successful, family friendly, exciting game show. I am so excited I have even played it with family members and they keep pushing me to try and take my idea further, So here I am. What do I do? Who do i reach out to? Who can you trust? Thank you in advance for any feedback.

Carol Cummings
Carol Cummings
1 year ago

I have a great idea for a Game/Reality Show and am looking for an agent or a production company to produce it. I am only interested in selling the idea outright. The Show is mainly about the AUDIENCE and not the contestants., although there will be contestants. There is no show out there today with this concept. Thus the reason the public would be very interested in a show like this. There is plenty to be gained by Advertisers who would also play a great part in the show. The show is very educational guaranteed to improve the Literacy rate,… Read more »

paul stelmach
paul stelmach
1 year ago

i am looking for an agent for a t v gameshow somebody must be interested send me an e mail come on make money paul

paul stelmach
paul stelmach
1 year ago

jasmine i have a gameshow that is different from any thing that has been on t v dramatic tension unusual magnificent points system no questions an ultimatum always creates a drama rooting value for tv viewers money to be won by contestants and t v viewers would you like to be my agent some sort of partner this is what a game show is

Jo MacIver
Jo MacIver
1 year ago

Is it possible to protect an idea for a game show before submitting it to a tv production company , thanks

1 year ago
Reply to  Jo MacIver

You can post it to yourself, recorded delivery, showing the date that you have sent it. That way you have physical proof that you came up with the idea first. You can also put ‘Copyright [your name] [date]’ on the bottom of every page of your proposal when you send it to the TV production company. I would do both of those things if you can.

Of course if you have an agent then that’s even easier as you have at least one witness there.

Jo MacIver
Jo MacIver
1 year ago
Reply to  Jasmine

Thankyou Jasmine , that is really helpful
I don’t have an agent but it sounds like it might be worth getting one

andy crook
andy crook
2 years ago

when watching the chase , i wondered when only one player goes through to the final chase . wouldn’t it be more entertaining if the chaser made them a lower offer on what they made , to bring back one more player of their choice . example if they won £6000 they would maybe have the chance to bring back a player for half the money . or the chaser could offer them a sum less than £6000 like £4000 to get another player to join them and share the lesser offer half each or a £1000 pound of the… Read more »

Stephen Williams
Stephen Williams
2 years ago

I have an idea for a game show how do I get it on tv

2 years ago

Hi Stephen, the article contains the basic steps you’ll need to take. Mostly, you need to start networking with people working in TV, particularly those who work with the production companies that you’ve identified as likely to be interested in your game show format. One good way to do this is look at the free webinars run by ScreenSkills – they have quite a few running about how to create your own documentary, how to sell a TV format, etc. The webinars are live, rather than recorded, so are a good networking opportunity.

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