Whenever a TV channel wants a new series of a show, they are said to order it. I don't understand why they use this word—wouldn't it make sense to say Channel X is making another series of Y. Why is this word used? Is there something done that maybe I wouldn't expect to be done that causes it to be called ordering?

I've also heard that even though shows are ordered by series, some shows are ordered by batches of episodes, which make up a series. Why is this?

  • 1
    Not all TV channels produce all of their content, so they order it at production companies. I think.
    – invalid_id
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 13:02
  • This is really two questions - the first of which is the use of the word "order", the second is about how commissions for shows are grouped into series.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 13:10
  • Really "order" is just a common word in English for instructing someone to send you goods or services in exchange for money. As @invalid_id says, broadcasting companies are often not the production companies that make the shows. Another word commonly used (in the UK at least) is commission - a company will commission a show.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 13:12
  • It's an order because a broadcasting company (like Fox) is purchasing the goods (making an order) that a production company (Like Bad Hat Harry) makes.
    – Ben Plont
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


As has been pointed out, "order" is simply being used to indicate the channel has requested or plans to make the series being referenced.

"Fox has ordered a full season of Gotham after test audiences provide glowing feedback for the first episode."

Basically, this is indicating that Fox only produced at least the pilot episode and maybe a few others, but after seeing positive feedback from test audiences, they decided to make, or "order", a full season.

As such, ordering a show is simply referring to the studio requesting a certain level of production on a show. Think of it like the show is a burger at a restaurant, and you're the studio that walks in and says, "I'll order that burger."

Sometimes they'll use the phrase "green light" as well. This is referring to traffic symbols, so saying they've given something the "green light" means they've given it permission to move forward into production, the same way a green light at a traffic stop allows cars in that lane to move forward.

Now, to your question about why some shows are picked up for a full season all at once, and why others are ordered in batches of episodes. Basically, sometimes the studio isn't so sure a particular show will perform well, and as a result they only order a handful of episodes instead of a full season. Sometimes they'll "order" a full season after that if the first few have proven to do well, or they'll simply order another batch of episodes to continue to see how it does, or to provide closure to the story being told before canceling it. Should the show not perform as well as they'd like, they've only sunk money into, say, 10 episodes instead of a full season of (typically) 22 episodes, and can then put another show in the now canceled show's time slot to hopefully generate more ad revenue for them.

All of this comes down to the business end of the studio. They need to sell ads to make money, but they can't spend more on a show than they generate in ad revenue otherwise they'll lose money. Therefore they need to figure out which shows will do well before paying for an entire season. Sometimes they're not entirely sure how well it'll do, but want to give it a shot, and will therefore order a handful of episodes to start, and see where it goes from there.

  • Could we say that in this sense an "order" is more of a directive than it would be a request? Something along the line of "We're directing this show be produced". Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 14:11
  • I suppose you could look at it that way.
    – MattD
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 14:29
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    I'd see it not as a directive but as a purchase order - i.e., it means that they're allocating the neccessary (and quite large) amount of money to make the show and contract the required people.
    – Peteris
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 18:29
  • Okay now we're just debating semantics. :P
    – MattD
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 18:35
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    @MattD not really... a network would not "order" episodes of a program they were producing in-house, they would "produce" them. They "order" episodes of programs from other production houses -- the network has to agree ahead of time to purchase x number of episodes so the production company is assured their effort won't go to waste.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 0:25

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