Masters of the Genre

How four power players work TV's hottest game

Until now, there's been a natural rhythm and flow to the process of creating prime time television. A stable development calendar. A leisurely pace for writing pilots. A period of measured consideration before production. A hiring season for the producers, directors and actors lucky enough to be part of a chosen series.

Back then, there was the certainty that another network might be making a show in the same genre, but none would ever stoop to stealing.

Those days are over. Welcome to the raucous, unbridled world of reality TV, which has turned the process of making TV on its ear.

Almost overnight, reality has torn through the record books, claiming seven of the top 20 highest-rated shows last season.

As the TV industry adapts, a new breed of executives is emerging—edgier and far more willing to break with convention.

Here's how four of the biggest players behind some of the most popular TV shows get the job done.