Nets Push Family-Friendly Reality Shows


Network executives lauded the importance of reality television and its family-friendly nature at the 2007 Family Friendly Programming Forum Symposium Tuesday morning in Beverly Hills.

With most successful network unscripted shows now favoring more wholesome competition in favor of the humiliation and gross-out elements of recent years, the networks now look at reality programming as a way to reach out to families.

“We have to support the reality genre,” said NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly, speaking on a panel with his counterparts from ABC, CBS and Fox. “It is a good source of family programming.”

The Family Friendly Programming Forum contributes funds to several new shows each year, with the slate this year including ABC’s Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters and NBC’s Friday Night Lights.  The network chiefs seemed to be pushing for some of those funds to be put towards reality programming in the future.

While NBC Universal has said it will look to more unscripted fare at 8 p.m. as a way of controlling costs, Reilly also joked about another reason to keep the reality pipeline humming.

“You want to keep feeding children’s desire to become famous, I think that’s very healthy for the country,” he laughed.

While much of the panel's focus was on reality, Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori said networks still try constantly to find a scripted show that will deliver the mass appeal of an American Idol.

“We wake up every morning believing that show is out there,” he said.

But ABC entertainment chief Steve McPherson said his days start a little differently.

“I wake up every morning hoping American Idol doesn’t exist,” he joked.

The Family Friendly Programming Forum is made up of 44 of the nation’s largest marketers, whose combined television ad spend accounts for about 30% of the industry’s ad dollars.  The group’s stated goal is to ensure the presence of “at least one family friendly viewing option on television every night of the week between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m.”