Stephen, wait until you're finished (or close to finished) and have a sense of what your distribution will be. You'd need it mainly for theatrical and broadcast, so why pay for it when you may not ultimately need it?
Basically, if a broadcaster (like HBO or the BBC or Discovery or whoever, for example) wants to buy your film, they will tell you if they have an E&O requirement and what company they prefer you to get the insurance from – because the insurance is really to protect the broadcaster, not the filmmaker (but you should still make sure that the insurance policy also covers you.)
This is because broadcasters have a lot of money, and filmmakers generally have none. So any potential lawsuit resulting from your film will likely target the broadcaster, not you, the filmmaker.
However, in most cases such lawsuits are few and far between – this E&O business is mostly just a formality required by the legal departments of large media companies.
What you can do to prepare for this process is to get signed waivers from the principal participants in your film, if possible.
Thanks, Doug and James, for your 12/16 and 12/17 responses to my question above about E&O insurance. You're both helpful and encouraging.
Glad we could help, Stephen.
In reply to Ray Metoyer's post on Fri 13 May 2011 :
Can anyone tell me what are the typical rates for selling a documentary to a US TV channel or where I might find such information? I have a client here in the UK who has made a documentary which should be of interest to the US audience.
The rates are all over the place, Maureen. Could be as little as next to nothing (small cable channel) or as high as a million or more (HBO, if they really really want it). Would help to know what kind of doc it is and the length.
In reply to Doug Block's post on Wed 4 Jan 2012 :
Thanks, Doug. Pretty much as I suspected. It's an hour-long documentary about Buffalo Bill's visit to Scotland.
Sounds like The History Channel is your likely target. Don't know their license fees (does anyone here have any experience with them?) but my guess is it's not high for an hour-long "one-off" acquisition. 10 to 20K, perhaps? Don't hold me to it, though.
these days likely less than half that figure.