A rudimentary definition of an executive producer is someone who supervises one or more producers in the performance of all his/her/their producer functions on single or multiple productions. On theatrical features, the executive producer may be the person who raises the funding, provides the funding, owns the rights to the screenplay and/or puts the deal together. It could be one of the principal actors whose own production company packaged and sold the project or even the line producer. It could also be an established producer who's lending his or her name (and prestige) to a project, so a less-established producer can get a film made, or an established producer supervising a production at the request of a studio.
On a television show, the executive producer (also referred to as the "EP") is often the "show runner": the Steven Bochcos, David E. Kelleys, Marcy Carsey/Tom Werners and Dick Wolfs of the industry—primary providers of television content, the ones who create, develop, sell and produce a plethora of the shows found on the TV and cable networks. In television, an EP would be equivalent to the producer on a feature, the ultimate authority and the liaison between the production and the network. It could also be a lead actor whose name and/or production entity got the project off the ground to begin with. A co-EP may very well be a less-established individual who brought his project to the show runner/EP who, in turn, sold it to the network.
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