Exec Interview: David Lyle, President, Fox Reality

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Faculty Note: CableU is honored to present David Lyle, President of Fox Reality. A seasoned entertainment veteran, Lyle's experience includes running top production companies such as FremantleMedia (“American Idol”) and Pearson Television. Here are David's answers to CableU's "Fun Fourteen" questions:

What is the key element that makes a program right for your network?
Something that is Reality (unscripted) entertainment and is loud. We unashamedly like the fun of reality. This is not an education channel. If you were watching something outrageous on TV and said “What the %#*^ is that?” we would like the answer to be The Fox Reality Channel.

What programs and/or genres are you looking for in the next year?
We are keen to find our Observational Documentary style show…..The loud central character or characters in a fascinating world.

How important are other platforms like broadband and mobile applications in the initial pitch?
The full digital applications for a concept are important to us. But we can work on those with the creator. The most important thing in the pitch is a compelling central premise.

What's the best way for a producer to pitch you?

What do you look for in a first-time producer besides a great idea?
We look carefully to see if the first timer can really pull off the idea.

What mistakes do producers make when pitching you?
The most insulting one is when they don’t know who we are or what we have had on air….It’s on the website. Otherwise there are no real mistakes aside from not having a good idea or not selling it properly.

What can global programmers learn from the US cable network market and from your network in particular?
The cable diversity here in the US still comes as a surprise to outsiders. With the fragmentation comes the difficulty in getting noticed. Hence shows need something that can make them pop. In smaller, less fragmented TV markets sometimes all new shows get a fair amount of attention.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Bruce Gyngell advised when getting on a plane, “If you don’t turn left turn back”.

Ever given?
“Winners have parties, losers have meetings”.

Who in this industry do you most admire and why?
I admire lots of TV people from great editors to executives. John Stephens, a legendary programmer from Australia taught me lots about the art of programming. I quote his aphorisms about what will or won’t rate almost every day.

What's the smartest programming decision you have ever made?
Hiring Bob Boden to make the programming decisions here at Fox Reality Channel or buying into My Bare Lady by the time I had heard the second sentence of the pitch.

I once produced a show called Australia’s Dumbest Criminals. Previously I had never known where the bottom of the barrel was but when I made that show I heard the clunk.

In all of television, which classic program should be revived?
This Is Your Life.

Should NEVER be revived?
Australia’s Dumbest Criminals

DAVID LYLE, President, Fox Reality
David Lyle is President, Fox Reality. Lyle is a seasoned entertainment veteran with experience running top production companies such as FremantleMedia (“American Idol”) and Pearson Television, was first named COO and General Manager, Fox Reality in December 2004. Prior to production, he served as a senior executive at Australia’s Nine Network. With more than 25 years’ experience as a creative producer specializing in the development and adaptation of successful unscripted formats, Lyle has spent a significant portion of his career acquiring, developing and producing unscripted programming across the United States, Europe and Australia.

Fox Reality - the only all reality, all the time network - launched in May 2005 and is one of only six new cable and satellite television networks to surpass more than 20 million subscribers in its first year. The service offers original series and specials, top US network favorites and exclusive international reality programs. Its programming is available on television, broadband, cellular phones and other leading mobile devices. Fox Reality is dedicated to delivering its viewers MORE with RealityRevealed bonus footage within primetime shows. RealityRevealed brings insight into what really happened with exclusive bonus outtakes, interviews, and other extras to make the Fox Reality experience completely unique.

The network’s roster includes original productions such as nightly strip series “Reality Remix,” “American Idol Extra,” “Solitary,” “Corkscrewed: The Wrath of Grapes” and “My Bare Lady;” upcoming series “Rob & Amber: Against the Odds” and “The Academy;” and still other original series and specials. Fox Reality is also home to top unscripted series from the US including “Last Comic Standing,” “Paradise Hotel” and “Joe Millionaire” and acquisitions from around the world including “The Villa,” “Treasure Island,” “Single Girls, “World of Stupid” and other popular shows.

While president of entertainment at FremantleMedia North America, Lyle led a team that launched and guided “American Idol” to three seasons of incredible growth. That program and others helped to establish new ways of integrating top sponsors like AT&T, Coca-Cola, Ford, Sears and Proctor & Gamble into unscripted production. Lyle’s three years atop FremantleMedia resulted in a deep diversification of programming for the company, as he produced primetime network shows and key series for major outlets including MTV, Lifetime, TLC, GSN, Pax TV and Food Network.

Lyle took over at FremantleMedia in 2001 after working in London for international unscripted programming powerhouse Pearson Television, where he was Worldwide Head of Acquisition and Development. While at Pearson, Lyle helped to coordinate productions across more than two dozen international territories, and acquired top U.S. and international unscripted programming formats resulting in more than 650 hours of original program production around the world.

Lyle was one of the founding members of FRAPA (Format Recognition and Protection Association) and served as Chairman from 2000 to 2006. FRAPA brings together format creators from around the world to protect their intellectual property rights.

Before coming to Pearson, Lyle served as Head of Development and Acquisitions for the Nine Network, based out of Sydney. Lyle was among the first international broadcasters to create local versions of top formats like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Changing Rooms,” the basis for TLC’s popular “Trading Spaces” in the U.S. During his time at the Nine Network Lyle executive produced the local “Today Show” before creating a number of top rated unscripted series during the early nineties. Later as a network executive, he oversaw the launch of many more series and specials while working closely with Nine’s programming, promotion and sales departments.

A native of Sydney, Lyle was first an exploration geologist before starting in the marginally more civilized world of local television as a researcher, writer and producer.