That was top of mind when a handful of the industry’s top reality execs took the stage this afternoon at NATPE today to debate the genre. And to one, the answer to that question wasn’t very apparent.
“We’re not hearing great ideas and I just think there’s a lack of great idea circulation right now,” said ABC’s reality/specials/late-night chief Andrea Wong. “It’s incumbent upon us and the producers to come up with more great ideas.”To be sure, Wong pointed out that reality accounts for seven of ABC’s 22 hours of primetime programming, so her division’s doing just fine. Indeed, with networks saying they’re easing off scripted fare in favor of reality at 8 p.m., the genre is more important now than ever.Where reality producers should set their sights was less clear to the panelists, who included Cris Abrego, the producer behind VH1’s smash Flavor of Love and others; CAA’s head of alternative TV, Michael Camacho; Debmar-Mercury Co-President Mort Marcus; and David Katz, former head of Yahoo! Studios.“Primetime is where the big money can be made,” said Camacho, who repeatedly and emphatically said network prime – rather than cable – was where reality producers should pitch if they want to make money. “Primetime matters most. It is still water-cooler talk.” Abrego, seated just next to him, makes a case for cable’s power. Flavor broke VH1’s ratings records, its finale drawing a broadcast-size 7.52 million viewers and ending up as one of cable’s top shows for the year.
Joked Abrego, who has a production deal with the network: “The checks still cash.”