Acquisition vs. Commission
It would seem that if you produced a program they wanted to buy and it fit into their programming needs they would pay at least as much as if it was a program they produced.
After all they're not working in thin air, off just a pitch treatment or a demo. The program is actually a physical entity, something they can see, make changes if need be. Logically a finished film should cost more than a commisison.
The reality is this: in most cases a network will pay at most half of what they would spend on a commission. Often they will pay as little as a quarter (or even less!) of a commission budget AND this is for programs where they can own the copyright. I doubt any producer will come near to recovering his production costs if he depends on an acquisition.
Well there are reasons for this and it goes like this:
1. Because they can, so they do. Inventories are always filled. No one really needs your single episode program - the system is set up for series. If you only have one buyer for a program the buyer sets the price.
2. Networks want to produce programs, not buy them. They will buy if the price is right and to fill a hole in their schedule - but really all they really want to do is produce, to develop programs, have a say in the selection of the host, have editorial content.
For them buying a program that they have nothing to do with is as exciting as buying a spare tire.
It ain't fair but that's how it is. The lesson to be learned - If you can always go for the commission.