2nd Edition

The Business of Television Updated and Expanded Second Edition

By Ken Basin Copyright 2025
    680 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    680 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this expanded and updated second edition, esteemed television executive and Harvard lecturer Ken Basin offers a comprehensive and readable overview of the business, financial, and legal structure of the U.S. television industry, as well as its deal-making norms.

    The Business of Television explores the basic structure and recent history of the television and streaming business, rights and talent negotiations, intellectual property, backend deals, licensing, international production, and much more. This expanded and updated second edition also features an in-depth exploration of the evolution of the streaming business, offers valuable new insights about negotiation, reflects the historic impacts of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, addresses the intersection of artificial intelligence technology and intellectual property law, and provides a greater breadth and depth of technical material about a wide variety of common television deals. The book also includes breakdowns after each chapter summarizing major deal terms and points of negotiation, a significantly expanded glossary, an extensive list of referenced articles and cases, and a wealth of real-world examples to help readers put the material into context.

    Written for a diverse audience of working or aspiring creative professionals, executives, agents, managers, lawyers, and students, The Business of Television is the definitive reference guide for the ever-changing television industry.

    Front Matter

    Disclaimer 1

    How to Use This Book. 2

    Preamble. 5



    Chapter 1

    A     What Is Television?. 1

    i      Defining (and Re-Defining) “Television”. 3

    ii     What Makes Television Television?. 6

    B     Who Are the Players (and How Do They Interact)?. 9

    i      Service Providers (Talent) 11

    ii     Studios. 13

    iii    Networks. 16

    a     Life Cycle of a Network. 17

    b     Network Business Models. 19

    c     Traditional Networks and the Digital Revolution. 20

    iv    Broadcast Stations. 25

    v     MVPDs. 27

    vi    Advertisers. 29

    a     Traditional Advertising. 29

    b     Product Integrations. 31

    vii   Talent Representatives. 34

    a     Agents. 35

    b     Managers. 40

    c     Lawyers. 42


    Chapter 2

    A    Streaming Alphabet Soup. 4

    i      SVOD.. 5

    ii     AVOD.. 6

    iii    TVOD.. 7

    iv    FVOD.. 7

    v     PVOD.. 8

    vi    VOD.. 8

    vii   FAST. 8

    viii      SST. 11

    ix    vMVPDs. 13

    x     Standalone vs. Companion Rights. 15

    B     The Evolution of Streaming Networks (2007–2024) 15

    i      Ad-Free Experience (“Direct Pay” Only) 21

    ii     “Premium” (a/k/a “Expensive”) Programming. 25

    iii    Binge Viewing. 30

    iv    Radical Data Untransparency. 35

    v     Generous Series Renewals. 39

    vi    Content Exclusivity. 41

    vii   Perpetual Content Availability. 43

    viii      Rejection of Theatrical Exhibition. 47


    Chapter 3

    A     From Idea to Production. 1

    i      Packaging and Studio Rights Acquisition. 3

    ii     Pitching and Set-Up. 4

    iii    Script Development 10

    iv    Pilot 14

    v     Upfronts. 17

    vi    Staffing and Writing. 18

    B     Production. 23

    i      Series Production (Generally) 23

    ii     Production of Subsequent Seasons. 26

    iii    Tax Incentives and Production Planning. 28

    C     Distribution. 32

    i      The Classical Model of Television Distribution. 33

    a     Media. 33

    b     Territory. 38

    c     Time. 39

    d     Allied and Ancillary Rights (Music/Derivatives/Merchandising) 40

    e     Portfolio Management and Diversification. 42

    ii     How Streaming Originals Upended the Classical Model of Television Distribution. 44


    Chapter 4

    A     Copyrights. 2

    i      Copyrightability. 3

    a     Formalities. 3

    b     Creativity. 4

    c     Ideas vs. Expression. 5

    d     Scenes a Faire Doctrine. 6

    e     Facts. 7

    f      Characters. 8

    ii     Copyright Term and Termination. 8

    iii    Infringement: Access, Copying, and Substantial Similarity. 12

    B      Trademarks. 15

    C      Life Rights. 19

    i      Defamation and Related Claims. 20

    ii     Public Disclosure of Private Facts. 24

    iii    Right of Publicity. 26

    D     The First Amendment 28

    i      Copyright Claims. 29

    ii     Trademark Claims. 36

    iii    Life Rights Claims. 37

    a     Defamation and Related Claims. 37

    b     Public Disclosure of Private Facts. 39

    c     Right of Publicity. 39

    E      Practical Considerations. 40


    Chapter 5

    A     Rights Agreements for Books and Articles. 5

    i      Option Fees and Terms. 5

    ii     Purchase Price. 7

    iii    Royalties. 8

    iv    Backend. 9

    v     Bonuses. 9

    vi    Granted Rights. 10

    vii   Reserved and Frozen Rights. 11

    viii      Consulting or Producing Services. 14

    ix    Credit 15

    x     Subsequent Productions. 16

    xi    Reversion. 18

    B     Other Forms of Preexisting Copyrighted Material 19

    C     Life Rights Agreements. 22

    D     Format Rights Agreements. 23

    E     Quick Reference Guide. 24


    Chapter 6

    A     Creator/Executive Producer Agreements. 2

    i      Writing and Spec Acquisition. 4

    ii     Optional Additional Development Steps. 8

    iii    Producing Fees. 10

    iv    Years/Locks. 11

    v     Services and Exclusivity. 13

    vi    Position/Priority and Preexisting Commitments. 14

    vii   Consulting. 16

    viii      Royalties. 17

    ix    Bonuses. 18

    x     Backend. 19

    Xi   Episodic Scriptwriting. 21

    xii   Credit 22

    xiii      Perks. 25

    xiv      Subsequent Productions. 25

    xv   Bona Fide Teams vs. Arranged Marriages. 27

    xvi      Quick Reference Guide. 29

    B     Staffing Writer Agreements. 35

    i      Fees. 36

    ii     Credit 38

    iii    Guarantees. 39

    iv    Options and Exclusivity. 40

    v     Episodic Scripts. 42

    vi    Mini-Rooms. 43

    viii      Quick Reference Guide. 44

    C     Supervising/Showrunning EP Agreements. 47

    i      Supervision (and Writing/Co-Writing) Fees. 48

    ii     Position/Priority. 49

    iii    Credit-Based Entitlements. 49

    iv    Royalties. 51

    v     Bonuses. 51

    vi    Backend. 51

    vii   Credit 52

    viii      Later-Attached Showrunners. 52

    ix    Quick Reference Guide. 54

    D     Non-Writing Executive Producer Agreements. 57

    i      Development Fees. 58

    ii     Producing Fees. 59

    iii    Locks. 59

    iv    Services and Exclusivity. 60

    v     Royalties. 60

    vi    Bonuses. 61

    vii   Consulting. 61

    viii      Backend. 61

    ix    Credit 62

    x     Perks. 62

    xi    Subsequent Productions. 62

    xii   Quick Reference Guide. 63

    E     Streamlined Schedule of WGA Minimums. 66


    Chapter 7

    A     Pilot Director Agreements. 2

    i      Services. 3

    ii     Directing Fees. 4

    iii    Executive Producing. 5

    iv    Episodic Directing. 7

    v     Royalties. 9

    vi    Bonuses. 9

    vii   Backend. 9

    viii      Credit 10

    ix    Perks. 10

    x     Subsequent Productions. 11

    xi    Quick Reference Guide. 11

    B     Producing Director Agreements. 14

    i      Producing and Directing Fees. 15

    ii     Options/Locks. 16

    iii    Backend. 17

    iv    Credit 17

    v     Quick Reference Guide. 18

    C     Episodic Director Agreements. 19

    i      Fees and Services. 20

    ii     Pilot/Feature Outs. 21

    iii    Quick Reference Guide. 21

    D     Line Producer Agreements. 22

    i      Fees and Services. 23

    ii     Options/Locks. 25

    iii    Credit 25

    iv     Perks and Reimbursements. 26

    v      UPM Allocations. 27

    vi     Quick Reference Guide. 28

    E     Streamlined Schedule of DGA Minimums. 31



    A     Series Regular Agreements. 5

    i      Test Options. 5

    ii     Pilot Services. 6

    iii    Pilot and Series Fees. 7

    iv    Series Services. 12

    v     Series Options. 12

    vi    Series Guarantees. 14

    vii   Backend. 16

    viii      Awards Bonuses. 18

    ix    Credit/Billing. 20

    x     Dressing Room.. 22

    xi    Photo/Likeness/Biography Approvals. 23

    xii   Merchandising Rights. 24

    xiii      Other Approvals/Consultations. 25

    xiv      Travel/Relocation. 26

    xv   Publicity/Promotion. 27

    xvi      Exclusivity. 28

    xvii     Morals Clauses. 33

    xviii    Quick Reference Guide. 38

    B     Guest Star Agreements. 45

    i      Fees and Breakage. 46

    ii     Guarantees and Schedule. 47

    iii    Exclusivity. 50

    iv     Options. 50

    v      Credit 51

    vi     Perks, Travel, and Approvals. 52

    vi     Quick Reference Guide. 53

    C     Casting Director Agreements. 55

    i      Fees and Services. 56

    ii     Bonuses. 57

    iii    Series Options. 58

    iv     Casting Associate/Assistant 58

    v      Credit 59

    vi     Office and Expenses. 59

    vii    Quick Reference Guide. 60

    D     Streamlined Schedule of SAG-AFTRA Minimums and Money Breaks. 62


    Chapter 9

    A    An Incomplete Recent History of Television Backend (1990–2024) 3

    B     Traditional Television Backend (Modified Adjusted Gross Receipts) 13

    i      Gross Receipts. 14

    a      Accountable Third-Party Revenue. 14

    b      Imputed License Fees. 17

    ii     Distribution Fees. 18

    iii    Distribution Expenses. 20

    iv     Overhead. 22

    v      Interest 22

    vi     Cost of Production. 23

    vii    Third-Party Participations. 24

    viii      Treatment of Tax Incentives. 25

    ix     Quick Reference Guide. 27

    C     Alternative/Streaming Backend. 30

    i      To MAGR or Not to MAGR?. 32

    ii     On-Platform Streaming Exhibition. 33

    iii    Success Bonuses/Enhancements. 35

    iv     Off-Platform Streaming Exhibition. 39

    v      Other Off-Platform Exploitation (Linear, Ancillary, Etc.) 40

    vi     Deductions. 42

    vii    Quick Reference Guide. 43


    Chapter 10

    A     Overall Term Deals. 4

    i      Term.. 5

    ii     Guarantee. 5

    a     Financial Guarantee. 6

    b     Recoupability. 7

    c     Cross-Collateralization. 10

    iii    Overhead. 11

    iv    Assignability. 11

    v     Inside Terms. 12

    vi    Suspension, Extension, and Termination (Death, Disability, and Force Majeure) 14

    B      First Look Deals. 15



    Chapter 11

    A     Network and Streaming License Agreements. 3

    i      Development Contributions and Production Commitments. 5

    ii     Pilot and Series Options. 5

    iii    Series Term.. 7

    iv    Pilot and Series License Fees. 8

    a     Deficit vs. Cost-Plus Models. 9

    b     Budgets. 10

    c     Initial License Fees. 12

    d     Payment Schedule. 14

    e     Breakage. 15

    f      Later Season License Fees. 16

    g     Success Bonuses. 17

    v     Minimum Orders. 20

    vi    Licensed Rights (Grant of Rights) 21

    a     Broadcast/Linear Agreements: Linear Network Exhibition and Runs  22

    b     Broadcast/Linear Agreements: Companion Digital Rights. 23

    c     Licensed Rights for Streaming Originals. 25

    vii   License Territory and Term.. 28

    viii      Reserved Rights and Holdbacks (Network Exclusivity) 32

    ix    Revenue Backstops. 36

    x     Subsequent Seasons and Derivative Productions. 38

    xi    Network Approvals. 39

    xii   Network Promotional Rights. 41

    xiii      Product Integrations. 42

    xiv      Contingent Compensation. 43

    xv   Quick Reference Guide. 44

    B      Studio Co-Production Agreements. 54

    ii     Lead Studio. 56

    iii    Distribution Rights. 57

    iv    Revenue Waterfall 59

    A    Gross Receipts. 60

    B    Distribution Fees. 61

    C    Distribution Expenses. 61

    D    Production Cost/Deficit Recoupment 62

    e     Unapproved Overages. 63

    f      Lead Studio Overhead. 63

    g     Third-Party Participations. 64

    h     Studio Net Proceeds. 64

    v     Quick Reference Guide. 65

    C      International Co-Productions and Co-Commissions. 68


    Chapter 12

    A     Basics of Unscripted Television. 3

    B     Professional Talent Agreements. 8

    i      Fees. 9

    ii     Exclusivity. 10

    iii    Options. 11

    iv    Product Integrations. 12

    C     Participant Agreements for Documentary and Competition Series. 12

    i      Fees. 13

    ii     Releases. 15

    iii    Exclusivity. 16

    iv    Options. 16

    v     Reverse Royalties. 17

    vi    Confidentiality and Publicity. 17

    D     Production Company Agreements. 18

    i      Production Company Fees. 18

    ii     Format and Other Rights Fees. 21

    iii    Locks. 22

    iv    Overages and Underages. 22

    v     Chargebacks. 24

    vi    Product Integrations. 25

    vii   Backend. 26

    viii      Reserved Rights. 27

    E     Producer Collaboration Agreements. 29

    i      Collaboration Term and Tail 29

    ii     Fee/Backend Splits. 30

    iii    Reserved Rights. 32

    iv    Other Commonly Negotiated Terms. 32


    Chapter 13

    A.  Why Is This Chapter Different from All Other Chapters?. 4

    B.  But First, an Academic Framework. 5

    C.  A Philosophy of Negotiation in Eight Adages. 8

    i.  Negotiate, Don’t Haggle. 8

    ii.  Every Negotiation Has Three “Teams”. 11

    iii.  Every Negotiation Is Three Negotiations. 11

    iv.  Pay People in the Currency That Is Most Valuable to Them (and Least Valuable to You) 12

    v.  Don’t Get Nasty; There Will Be Plenty of Time for That Later 14

    vi.  There’s No Such Thing as “Winning the Deal”. 16

    vii.  Play the Long Game. 17

    viii.  The Best Way to Negotiate Is as Yourself 18

    D.  Final Thoughts. 19



    A    Past-Its-Peak TV.. 3

    B    Peak TV Merger Scorecard and Future Consolidation. 5

    C    Realigning Incentives. 15

    D    The Old Ways Will Save Us. 17

    i      Advertising. 17

    ii     Windowing. 18

    iii    Bundling. 19

    iv    Letting Television Be Television. 21

    a     Classic TV Genres. 22

    b     More and Longer Seasons. 23

    c     Rational Budgets. 25

    v     Meaningful Backend. 28

    vi    Prioritizing Experience and Investing in Professional Development 29

    vii   Pilots. 31

    viii      The Social and Cultural Experience of Television. 32

    E     What About Regulation?. 34

    F     Deals of the Future. 35

    i      Narrowly Tailored Rights. 36

    ii     Revenue Sharing. 36

    iii    Success-Based Compensation. 38

    iv    The New Best Deal in Town. 39

    G    Who Stands to Win?. 40

    H    Final Thoughts. 42


    Back Matter

    Glossary. 1

    Bibliography/Case Listing. 59

    Articles. 59

    Reports. 72

    Books. 73

    Cases. 73

    Acknowledgments. 78



    Ken Basin is a long-time executive leader in the television industry, innovating new models in content licensing and production management across head and senior business affairs roles at Paramount Television Studios, Sony Pictures Television, and Amazon Studios. Recognized by Variety as one of “Hollywood’s New Leaders” and by The Hollywood Reporter in its annual “Next Gen Executives” (“35 Under 35”) feature, Ken currently serves as Global Head of Business Operations (Film/TV) at Riot Games.

    “Ken knows where the money is hiding in Hollywood, and this book teaches you how to find it. It’s an indispensable resource and a fascinating read for insiders and lookie-loos alike.” ―Matthew Belloni, Founding Partner of Puck; former Editorial Director of The Hollywood Reporter

    “Ken Basin is equal parts lawyer, historian, and oracle. The second edition of The Business of Television is a skillful summary of the history of the TV business and an insightful map of its future: a definitive resource on how to understand the industry we work in today, and prepare
    ourselves for whatever happens tomorrow.” ―Chris Corabi, President of Business & Legal Affairs of Annapurna

    “Ken Basin’s book is a brilliantly written encyclopedic treatise on every aspect of the television business, and a valuable asset to both seasoned professionals and newcomers to the field.” ―Jim Gianopulos, Former Chairman & CEO of Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox

    “Ken’s masterful new edition is destined to become the touchstone for anybody who wants a thorough, thoughtful, and expert explanation of the current state of the scripted U.S. TV business. Accessible and clear, it’s a pleasure to read.” ―Cliff Gilbert-Lurie, Co-Manager Partner of Zifrren Brittenham LLP

    “Ken Basin is the professor of television, and The Business of Television is the go-to resource trusted by professionals across the industry. This new edition is both history and how-to for the streaming era, reflecting Ken’s particular knack for understanding and respecting the perspectives of companies and creatives alike.” ―Tara Kole, Founding Partner of Johnson Shapiro Slewett & Kole, LLP

    "This second book by Ken Basin is a Herculean effort and result. It provides a remarkable in depth but very understandable overview and analysis of deal making and related issues in the US television industry. I highly recommend the book for both those looking to work in this industry in any capacity, as well as those who already are so engaged." ―Jared Levine, Partner at Yorn Levine Barnes Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner Endlich, Goodell & Gellman

    “An illuminating journey through the ever-evolving landscape of television and streaming, written by a true insider. This newly updated edition is a must-read for anyone seeking to navigate this dynamic industry with clarity and foresight.” ―Philip Matthys, Head of Business Affairs of Apple TV+

    “This book is on the desk of every respected television executive in the business. Ken has written the definitive guide to the ever-changing TV business, a must-read for anyone that wants to work in any aspect of the television industry.” ―Jenna Santoianni, President of MRC Television

    “The second edition of The Business of Television again offers great insights and up-to-date detail on the inner working of the television industry, but it also ranges beyond conventional updates in its ambition to predict, and even prescribe, intriguing pathways for the healthy future of our industry.” ―Dan Scharf, Global Head of Business Operations of Amazon Studios

    “There is no better guide to navigate the rapidly changing TV business with than Ken’s newest edition here—an opportunity to look back, observe the current, and chart the next course. Not many people in the TV business go beyond the layer of information needed to be competent; with this primer, Ken offers you an opportunity to innovate and thrive!” ―Jesse Sisgold, President & Chief Operating Officer of Skydance Media and Chairman of Skydance Sports

    “The second edition of Ken Basin’s The Business of Television is an essential resource for everyone from the industry newbie to the seasoned pro. Deeply researched and eloquently delivered, Ken offers a practical guide to navigating today’s evolving world of television and media with insight into industry trends and practices, the nuts and bolts of entertainment finance, and a crib sheet for pragmatic dealmaking. Every single executive, representative, and creative person has something to gain from this book!” ―David W. Stone, Co-Founder of TFC Management and TFC Productions

    “It’s no small feat for Ken Basin to keep up with the rapid changes in TV dealmaking, but this second edition proves he’s more than up to the task. Which is good, because it’s going to take many more editions to chronicle an industry far from done evolving.” ―Andrew Wallenstein, President & Chief Media Analyst of Variety Intelligence Platform; former Co-Editor-in-Chief of Variety

    “Ken Basin is the mad genius of the TV business—the man who knows how to make the deals that make television. And his book is just like him—brilliant, perceptive, forthright, thoughtful, innovative, and deeply human. Anyone working in television, from the fresh- faced assistant to the flighty creative (hi!) to the seasoned exec, will find it useful, insightful, revelatory, inspiring.” ―Brian Yorkey, Creator and Showrunner of 13 Reasons Why and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Next to Normal

    “Ken has once again contributed a valuable tool to our industry, written with insight, experience and humor. Everyone from industry newcomers to experienced executives, inside and outside the realm of business affairs, will find something new and valuable to take away
    from this book.” ―Carmi Zlotnik, President of Television of Legendary Entertainment

    Praise for the First Edition

    “Ken Basin has a talent for explaining the TV industry in a way that makes sense to lawyers and laypeople alike. The Business of Television is the essential reference guide for creative professionals.” ―Josh Berman, Writer and Executive Producer; Creator, Notorious, Drop Dead Diva, The Mob Doctor, and others

    “As a practicing lawyer, producer and now professor teaching film artists, this book is a wonderful combination of real workplace knowledge with an understanding of how the television industry functions; an accessible and brilliant book.” ―Barbara Boyle, Associate Dean, Entrepreneurship and Special Initiatives, UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television

    “Ken Basin has created a timely and unique book that perfectly balances a big-picture view of the dynamic television industry with practical details about its business and legal processes. This is an essential reference source for anyone studying or engaging in professional activities related to television production and distribution for all media platforms.” ―Stuart Brotman, Alvin and Sally Beaman Professor of Journalism and Media Law, Enterprise, and Leadership; Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Government Studies Program, Center for Technology Innovation, The Brookings Institution

    “I never knew how much of the television business I didn’t know until I read this book! This is THE comprehensive how-to manual on the business.” ―Jamie Erlicht, Head of Worldwide Video Programming, Apple TV+

    “A masterful job! Basin provides a readable and comprehensive guide to the uninitiated, while offering knowledgeable insiders a valuable and incisive analysis of this ever-evolving industry.” ―Bert Fields (1929–2022), Entertainment Attorney; Partner, Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP

    “In The Business of Television, Ken has found a way to encapsulate the knowledge that has taken me 40 years in the industry to learn. If every producer, manager, agent and lawyer in our industry took the time to read Ken’s book and really invest in understanding each step in the process of making a great TV show, we could all save a lot of time and pain.” ―Steve Golin (1955–2019), Founder and CEO, Anonymous Content LLP

    “This book would not make a good TV show. It is, however, about as comprehensive and readable a guide to how television gets made as you can find. I’ll admit, after over a quarter of a century in the business, there are things in here I didn’t know. With an insider’s perspective and a lawyer’s clarity, Ken Basin lays it all out (even the technical stuff). It is an essential reference book, both dictionary and encyclopedia, for anyone interested in the serious business of television.” ―Chris Keyser, Writer and Executive Producer; Creator/Showrunner, Party of Five, The Society

    “This is the book I have been waiting for . . . highly readable and forward looking, providing a coherent overview with enough specifics to be of genuine practical value, delivered from the inside perspective of a scholarly television executive currently working at the highest level.” ―Nick La Terza, Adjunct Professor and Lecturer in Law, UCLA School of Law, University of Miami Law School, and UCI Law School; Partner with law firm The Point Media; Former Senior Legal/Business Executive for Largo Entertainment, New World Pictures, and Alliance Atlantis Entertainment

    “With The Business of Television, Ken Basin has created a powerful tool for people of all levels of experience in the television business. In an industry where the rules are being re-written daily, Ken has found a clear through-line that delivers a foundation of knowledge that you can use to jump in and begin to re-write the rules yourself.” ―Chris Parnell, Senior TV Programming Executive, Apple TV+; former Co-President, Sony Pictures Television Studios

    “In the fast-changing environment of the television business, it’s never been more important to understand how things are, how they used to be, and where they are going next. This book covers all you need to truly grasp the business of making great TV.” ―Amy Powell, Head of Entertainment Marketing, Amazon Studios; former President, Paramount Television Studios

    “EVERYONE hates Business Affairs people—but NO ONE hates Ken Basin. That’s because he’s smart, honest, and helpful, and because he behaves with honor. Turns out he writes that way, too. I thank him for explaining the future to me.” ―Billy Ray, Writer, Director, and Executive Producer; screenwriter of The Hunger Games, Captain Phillips, Shattered Glass, and others

    “Ken Basin has given us a great primer in the nuts and bolts of the rapidly evolving television business—told with insight, brevity, and wit. Basin’s experience on both sides of the buyer/seller equation really shows through, and makes this book a valuable tool for anyone who wants to understand the business side of the shows we love to watch.” ―Dan Scharf, Global Head of Business Operations, Amazon Studios

    “It takes a keen analytic mind and experienced dealmaker like Ken Basin to craft this indispensable guide to anyone looking to navigate the increasingly complicated world of TV production.” ―Andrew Wallenstein, President & Chief Media Analyst, Variety Intelligence Platform; former Co-Editor-in-Chief of Variety