The term MVP, Minimum Viable Product, gets thrown around a lot in our industry. Some people say MVPs are too small and customer expectations are higher than ever, and propose instead the Minimum Awesome Product. Others say MVPs are too big and bloated and still cost too much.
To help people agree on the size and scope of an MVP, I propose the following simple analogy: Is your MVP a Season 1, or a Pilot? And to match, an alternative expansion of MVP: Minimum Viewable Program.
A Pilot is a single episode, just enough to introduce (most of) the main characters and the feel of the show, to gauge interest and make a call on further investment. It doesn’t need to be shown to the full audience, and it doesn’t need to generate revenue. It doesn’t need a fancy title sequence or theme song. Elaine wasn’t even in the Seinfeld Pilot. Based on feedback, the episode could be rewritten, the cast could change, the title could change.
If all goes well, the Pilot usually becomes the first episode of Season 1. If not, the show is scrapped at minimal cost to the studio, nobody notices, and no harm is done. You can probably afford to create a bunch of pilots knowing that you can afford to scrap the ones that don’t pan out, and even some of the ones that do.
So if your team decides to make an MVP, make sure you agree whether you are trying to create Season 1, or just a Pilot.