Programming

HRTS Panelists: Reality TV Changing, But Here to Stay

Producers say as long as there are characters audience can root for or against, viewers will tune in 4/12/2011 06:04:28 PM Eastern

While
reality television faces the same challenges in today's fragmented
market as scripted shows, as long as there are characters that bring out
strong feelings - good or bad - from the audience, viewers will tune in.

This
was according to a panel of reality producers who were gathered
Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. as part of the
Hollywood Radio and Television Society's "Unscripted Hitmakers"
Newsmaker Luncheon.

The
panelists all agreed that the key to a successful reality show is
getting characters that viewers have interest in seeing what they do
next. However, they noted the "rooting for the bad guy" craze is starting to die
down. "We are looking for more positive feedback," said J.D. Roth,
CEO/founder, 3 Ball Productions/Eyeworks USA; EVP, The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Addition. "Everyone is slowly moving towards that area."

In the case of Nigel Lythgoe, EVP, American Idol; co-creator/EVP/judge, So You Think You Can Dance;
CEO, Big Red Entertainment, this is especially true. "If you can get
the public to support the talent, you have a successful show," he said.

With
the bevy of reality television shows out there now, finding something that is new and not a repackaged form of an older
idea is a challenge. SallyAnn Salsano, founder/president, 495 Productions; EVP, Jersey Shore, Tool Academy and Disaster Date,
believes that the way to find new ideas is to go out and view how
people interact with each other and get something from that. "That's how
it happens," said Salsano, "you have to, in some weird way, be into
what people are doing at all times."

To
complicate those matters, the television audience these days is as
fragmented as ever, and the Internet continues to have a direct effect
on younger people's viewing habits. "They're their own programmers,"
said Roth. "They control what they watch, when they watch, how they
watch, it's a much different world."

Stephen Lambert, CEO, Studio Lambert; creator/EVP, Undercover Boss, The Fairy Jobmother and Wife Swap,
thinks the Internet, instead of being a detriment to live television,
can actually be an aide. "The biggest use of Twitter is people talking
about TV shows," said Lambert.

One thing Lythgoe is thinking of doing with American Idol is
placing 360 degree cameras so the viewer can watch the show on television
and then control which camera they want to see via their computer, so
they feel a part of the show.

According to Thom Beers, CEO, Original Pictures; EVP, Ax Men, Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers, his only concern right now is to make good television and let the network executives figure out the rest.

"It's
our job to make these great television shows, and it's all these
network executives job to figure out where they are gonna put it and how
they are going to monetize it," he said.

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