Mark Itkin, a 22-year veteran of the William Morris Agency, comes as close to being a pioneer of reality television as you're likely to find.
When he sealed the deal for MTV's The Real World
in 1992, the concept was way ahead of the pack. It's still a franchise show at the network. He's had his hand in Road Rules,
also on MTV, NBC's Fear Factor
and CBS's Big Brother.
reality. We count at least 14 reality shows that got picked up because of the Itkin touch. And so we figured he would have some no-nonsense rules for crafting a successful reality show.
1) Revenue Streams.
"Think of a television show as a business. Think of as many revenue streams as possible. In today's day and age, where buyers control so many of the rights, you want to find revenue streams so that you can maximize the producers' take on these projects."
2) Know Your Buyer.
"You need to know your buyer, your buyer's needs and the marketplace. Know the history of the marketplace so that you don't go in and pitch something that's already been bought or was bought and didn't work."
3) Great Characters.
"Make sure that the contestants or individuals featured in the series are compelling and that they are people with many dimensions to their lives. They also need to be accessible to viewers."
4) Compelling Storytelling.
"What makes for a successful reality show is great characters and strong storytelling. That is the only way you'll have success."
5) Be Fresh, Not Derivative. "I believe in being the first out of the box and not being a copycat. And I believe in pushing the envelope as far as you can in an advertising-supported environment. Try to evolve the genre into areas we haven't seen before."