Dave Goetsch is executive producer and writer of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, the highest ranked sitcom on TV. After a 12-year run, the its series finale was aired last week.
Goetsch explains in this week’s Masters in Business interview how the structure of television is surprisingly parallel to a typical venture capital back technology start-up. Write the pitch for a new show is very much equivalent to the business plan you might create for new start up. Just as founder start out with a round of Angel investors, so too do show creators need a backer for their initial Pilot. If that gets picked up, the next step is the “Series A round” – let’s call that the first season of broadcast — both tv shows and new firms are untried and unknown, and no one knows if either will find an audience or users. By the time a show makes it to its 4th Season when Syndication (and the big bucks) start, you have the equivalent of for a tech company IPO.
He began his career as a comedy writer on 3rd Rock From The Sun. He explains how comedy writing is about failure — you constantly pitch story ideas and jokes most of which will not make it onto the show. The titles you see in the credits is the pecking order of decision-making: Staff Writer, Story Editor, Co-Producer, Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Executive Producer and even Executive Producer all pitch ideas to the Show Runner, who has final say.
His favorite books are here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.
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Next week we speak with Thomas Lin, founding editor of Quanta Magazine, an award-winning, editorially independent science and math news site published by the Simons Foundation.