Getting Behind Reality TV's Creative Process #NYCTVWK#TCS

Panelists Talk Scripted Pressures, Derivatives
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Speakers from Bravo, Disney-ABC Television Group, Matador, A&E and ICM Partners joined in a discussion on Nov. 12 at NYC’s TV Week: The Content Show, where the creative process behind reality TV was the primary talking point.

SVP of Non-Fiction Programming at Lifetime, Eli Lehrer, was the moderator of NYC’s TV Week, The Content Show, accompanied by panel, Morgan Hertzan, VP Executive in Charge at Lincoln Square Studios, Disney-ABC Television Group; Jay Peterson, Founder & CEO, Matador; Lara Spotts, SVP Development, Bravo; Shelly Tatro, SVP, Development & Programming, Nonfiction, Alternative & Reality, A&E Network and Lori York, Partner, ICM Partners.

The panel delved into the possible “creative crisis in non-fiction,” as well as the competition with unscripted TV, after Lehrer probed the question. A few panel members agreed there is a challenge, not necessarily a crisis.

“Scripted is definitely pressuring unscripted, and it is forcing us to be so much better. It’s also forcing our industry to think of what we can do that can be as good as something that is totally made up,” said Hertzan.

Tatro, SVP at A&E network spoke about the challenge in the high demand for reality TV as well.

“Our audience is going everywhere, and how do we make shows stick? Sometimes it’s about patience, we’ve got to believe in shows and give them a little longer, maybe before we pull them, because it’s taking the audience longer to find them,” said Tatro.

Spotts, SVP of Bravo mentioned how people tend to go for the shows that are in their comfort zone, including The Real Housewives, where the audience is anxious to view because they are more invested in these characters as opposed to new ones.

“There is a make new friends but keep the old happening, and the new friends are having a bit of trouble. Scripted, in some ways does have it a little easier, because they can just make it all up so by the definition of reality that is harder for us to do,” said Spotts.

Derivative television was touched on as well, in terms of what makes a show transformational and if there is still “cutting edge production content in cable.”

“There is an authenticity in how we view things now that is potentially the most magnetic. I just think we’re all searching for something that just feels authentic and less produced, because there are so many things around,” Spotts stated.

Tatro said, “Some of the ideas they’ve been getting recently at A&E feel original, but cutting edge, I don’t know. We’re all in that place now where we have to take risks, we have to in order to grow.”

The production process was another topic discussed, in regards to what makes unscripted TV unique and what is needed to make some change for reality television.

York spoke about the necessary components to have in a reality TV series, as well as what goes behind the scenes when shows are chosen.

“In one added piece, it’s in the way you produce it. You need great characters, a format or access to a world. Now in this day and age, there is a need to have it all at the same time,” said York. 

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