The directors of network programming for the big four American TV networks have 20 to 30 years of experience in the business. This is considered the highest rung for jobs in television production. People who are qualified for this kind of job have worked up through the ranks at independent production companies, TV studios and TV networks, gaining valuable experience and insight on the development and scheduling process.
One of the best routes for becoming a director of network programming is to pursue a career in development. This can happen in several different venues. For example, there are smaller, independent television production companies that develop ideas into pilots that are either sold to a TV studio or directly to a TV network. This might be the easiest place to get a production assistant or other entry-level job to get you acquainted with the rules of the game. If you win the confidence of your superiors, maybe they'll ask for your opinion on a script or invite you to some meetings.
On the development career track, you'll hone your skills at identifying a good idea and corralling it through the development process. You'll learn how to balance the creative vision of the show's creator with the current market conditions to create a product that's both entertaining and successful. You'll learn what upper-level network executives want to hear from a pitch and see in a pilot. Most of all, you'll cultivate a solid reputation and a proven track record for developing shows that go on to become hits.
Before becoming the director of network programming, you might spend a few years at a TV network in a specific area of development. At the major networks, there are development jobs specifically for comedy, drama and original programming as well as jobs for daytime, primetime, sports and digital media. The more experience you get in different genres, day parts and media platforms, the more prepared you'll be to oversee them all as the director.
A lot of directors of network programming have experience in the research and affiliate marketing departments of major studios and TV networks. Beyond your ability to spot and develop a fresh idea, you need to prove that you understand ratings and how to maximize advertising revenue through strategic partnerships, network affiliates and across multiple media platforms.
While it's not necessary to earn a specific degree in television business or broadcasting, there are college programs out there that could get you a leg up on internships. Many directors of network programming study communications, while others end up in the field after earning degrees in law, business and marketing. But the only way to really learn how the business works is to land that entry-level job and start getting experience.
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