The marketing angle doesnt have to come from a book. While DreamWorks is a large, successful company, they dont own a broadcaster and as a result, their success in TV has been limited. Father of the Pride, their forthcoming computer animated prime time series, has several marketing hooks. It uses computer animation (though that didnt seem to help Game Over) but more importantly, it features Siegfried and Roy, performers who are known from their TV appearances and their Las Vegas act. It also doesnt hurt that the animal characters are lions. Im sure that NBC is hoping that Jeffrey Katzenbergs previous success with animated lions will continue.
Independent companies often rely heavily on merchandising revenues. HIT is a British company that owns Bob the Builder. They spent a limited amount of money producing the animation and then merchandised the property as heavily as they could. They made more from the merchandising than they did from the show. Using their profits from Bob, they bought Barney the Dinosaur and also bought a Canadian company, Gullane, just so they could get ownership of Thomas the Tank Engine.
Some companies have resorted to giving their shows away for free in the U.S, just so that the shows can stimulate the sale of merchandise. Barney, even before it was bought by HIT, was provided to PBS for free, as was the show The Big Comfy Couch. The producers felt that if they could get the show to an audience, they could sell enough merchandise to pay for the production of the show and still show a profit.
Ive heard of instances where producers offered to pay to put their shows on the air in order to find an audience for their merchandising efforts.
This is how companies sometimes get broadcasters interested. Another necessity for companies that dont own channels is keeping their costs down, and they do this through outsourcing and co-productions. Ill talk about these next time.