CABLEU.tv is honored to publish this exclusive interview with Elliot Jacobson, Senior Vice President of Programming and Production for RLTV. At RLTV Jacobson is responsible for the design and execution of the network's programming strategy and he oversees the development and production of all original programming, as well as the network’s acquisition, scheduling and digital media teams.
What is on your development slate? What are you working on right now that you are excited about?
We’re aggressively looking for acquisitions that will work for our demo. From an acquisitions perspective, we’re looking for travel, food and health. Ideally, the hosts would be over 50 ... I wouldn’t say it’s a prerequisite for us though. We have a number of shows where the hosts are in their 40’s but the concept is still appropriate for the demo. As a producer, however, it's important to follow what we are doing. We are 50+, that's our demo, which means that we are looking for shows that deal with issues that are informative to the 50+ audience. We’re also focusing on health or general lifestyle programming. We have a number of talk shows, but aren't looking for any new ones at this point ... also really anything that has a financial depth to it -- again with an emphasis on the financial topics that are relevant for our demographic.
We’re also interested in relationship shows about dating over 50. We currently have a show called ANOTHER CHANCE FOR ROMANCE, which is a similar format to BLIND DATE. We’d like something to complement that. We acquired a show called SUNSET DAYS which takes place in a retirement community in Arizona.
Is it tough to find content because of your focus on the 50+ audience?
From an acquisitions perspective, it’s certainly challenging. There are a number of newer channels that have launched in the last couple of years that are 45+. As the demand grow, the supply will grow, but as of now it’s very challenging.
We actually produce 75 percent of our own content. I’d like to see that number go down. I would like to be able to commission more and I certainly would like to be able to acquire more over the next 18 months.
Do you have any specific advice for producer’s who want to pitch you?
There are certain things that we expect. We expect them to spend some time on our website, to have an understanding of our programming so that they’re not pitching shows that we already have. There are about 26 shows represented on our website. It should give a producer a good sense of the general directions we have been going in. I can't expect a producer to know what our strategic programming initiative shifts are moving toward but in terms of who we are targeting, that’s a no brainer. The issue is that more often than not, producers have never heard of us when they sit down to pitch to us. So I think research is a reasonable request which pays off.
We also get a good number of pitchers where there’s a lack of respect for the demo. I think it’s a prerequisite to be able to formulate a show that understands the audience.
In terms of our pitch policy, we send out release forms. We are open to receiving material in different formats and there’s no standard for it in terms of one sheets. We look at everything. How far it gets depends on the idea.
What are you paying for a half an hour of programming, what’s the range?
It really depends on a number of factors, like how attractive we believe it’s going to be to advertisers. The range can be $7000/30 min. to $120 000/30 min. There’s a lot that comes into play. Having said all of that we are competitive with other networks in terms of pricing.
Jacobson has been instrumental in developing key talent relationships (Walter Cronkite, Florence Henderson) and Co-pro partnerships (AARP, NBC, AAA and US News and World Report) for the network and launched, NBC's "Meet the Press" on RLTV, the first time the perennial news flagship has aired outside of NBCU. An award winning producer and director, Elliot has written and produced factual and scripted shows, commercials and the feature films: "Coyote" and "Sally and Mickey". Before RLTV, he served as Vice President of Development and Production for Mallorca Entertainment, as a Production Executive for Hap Dong Communications, and head of Media Development and Production operations for Laureate Education, Inc.