Holly Jacobs has always believed in the therapeutic power of television. The executive VP of U.S. reality and syndicated programming for Sony Pictures Television (SPT), Jacobs oversees the development of programming across the television spectrum, including unscripted network series (The CW’s new fall entry Plain Jane, Shark Tank for ABC, The Sing-Off for NBC) and daytime syndication (The Dr. Oz Show and the upcoming Nate Berkus Show).
But Jacobs began her professional life as an art therapist. “I’ve had a very interesting journey,” she says.
After earning a master’s degree from New York University, Jacobs went to work as an art therapist at the Florence Nightingale Nursing Home in Manhattan. “I was so amazed by the incredible stories of these elderly folks who were living there that I thought, I have to document this somehow,” she says.
She did so in a film called Forget Me Not. That documentary started Jacobs on the path to a television career that eventually led to commercial television at ABC Daytime. In her position as VP of reality for ABC Daytime, Jacobs worked on the 1997 launch of The View. “I’m very proud that a show that I was involved in early on is such a big piece of pop culture,” she says.
But iconic status in daytime syndication is the exception, not the rule. And while Dr. Oz has been the most successful syndicated launch in recent memory, the landscape remains littered with aborted efforts. It doesn’t hurt that both Oz and Berkus have been anointed by daytime rainmaker Oprah Winfrey.
“Syndication is the most challenging business,” Jacobs admits. “And being able to take a talent that has been groomed on Oprah Winfrey is any programmer’s dream.”
For Berkus, which launches in September, Jacobs and her team will focus on broadening the host from his professional trappings as a design and organizational guru to more of a life coach. “He’s that go-to guy on so many levels, and that’s what we’re going to build upon in the show,” Jacobs says.
In that same way, Jacobs has long been that go-to person in her genre, having evolved her deep understanding of what makes good television. “I’ve always been drawn to storytelling,” she explains. “Great stories and the visual medium of film—that is at the core of all of it.”