Why do cartoon creators have little control over their show compared to the network/parent company?


Take Nickelodeon and Spongebob for example. The late Stephen Hillenburg created the show and even had a set number of seasons he wanted before ending the show but ultimately Nick/Viacom had complete control and milked it for all it’s worth. I admit, I am ignorant to the business but if I’m the one creating the content why does the network/company get more of a say over what is done with my creation than I do?

In: 3

Basically, because they are the ones paying for it. The downside you get of having a large company fund the production of your show is that they get control over it. If you want more creative control, you have to pay for it yourself.

Because creators usually need to sign over the rights of their content to one of the major entertainment ~~cartels~~ companies in order to gain exposure. This was especially true back before the “internet age” where getting air time meant that the network/studio would have controlling interest.

ELI5 – the “rights” to the show are owned by the network or the show is owned by the studio – not the creator.

Longer explanation:

A studio or network can order the creation of a show if they don’t buy the show’s right from a creator. [“Rights” mean the right to broadcast or show on cable or streaming service](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcasting_rights).

So a network has to fill time on their schedule or put a show on a streaming service – they pay a studio to for that show. The studio in turn goes to someone to create a show.

The studio may want to own the entire show, not just the broadcast right, because a creator who owns the property (the scripts, the characters, the “look and feel” as it were) can take the show to *another* studio.

If the studio owns the show, they can do whatever they want – if the creator gets fired, leaves, moves on to another project – the show can continue.

So while an artist can create a show, they may not own it – even if it’s a new property – the studio does.

Nickelodeon went to hillenburg and said “we will pay you x dollars to produce a tv show.” The studio is basically “buying a tv show” in a sense, and once its made its theirs. The creator may have specific ideas but at the end of the day its not their final decision to make

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started out as a pretty dark, if somewhat self-consciously absurd retelling of Japanese samurai stories/movies.

The creators were offered ridiculous amounts of money for selling the IP to BigCorporateEntertainment. Now they ride skate boards, talk like surfers, break dance, and like pizza.

Eastman and Laird don’t care. They’re sitting on hundred million dollar piles of cash each. Authors write books, and unless they’re Harry Potter or the Tolkien estate…being a starving writer with a good IP that has integrity isn’t the goal.

My wife assures me that the book it was based on was profoundly good. The movie, City Of Bones, was one of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever seen. If you’re a big famous star, you can afford to hold out for more money and creative control. If you’re living in a crappy apartment and your car is breaking down and your new wife is pregnant…10 million dollars for full rights and creative control sounds good.

Also…you can’t fathom what Hollywood will do to your plot. All of those “based on a true story” movies? No one would recognize themselves in one. The Bourne Ultimatium and that whole series are…not the greatest books. Not bad, but not exactly enthralling to read either. They took the good ideas from the book, chopped out most of the boring stuff, rewrote the dead dialogue and the first one at least was a blockbuster movie.

Then we could talk about Shakespeare and West Side Story…but there’s much worse examples where an author wrote a love story about a guy and his dog in the great depression Hollywood turns it into a space opera musicial about two alien octopi.

If you love it, don’t give up creative control. If you want to get rich and have an idea that appeals to pop culture…give up on any creative control.