Sean Kirkegaard has left Granada Media’s Greenhouse Project in the U.K. to join Pearson Television Worldwide in the capacity of team leader, entertainment development. While at Granada, Kirkegaard developed a number of reality formats including Boot Camp and Heart Break Hotel, which the producer describes as a superior version of the now-airing Fox series Temptation Island. His hire signals a move by Pearson towards a strong commitment to factual programming – a genre it has reportedly increased spending for by almost 500%.
"I think the TV industry has a lot to learn from the ad industry," says Kirkegaard. "We need to look at their R&D spending and their spending for pitching to clients, creative development, and creative directing. The bigger TV companies are taking notice and Pearson has put the resources together to create a meaningful team that has the time to think up ideas, and to also see those ideas through."
Kirkegaard sees entertainment formats including everything from classic, light entertainment to daytime quiz shows and reality. His current focus, however, lies in variety programming: "If I can reinvent variety for the 21st century, I’ll be a really happy man." Although Kirkegaard isn’t yet sure how he will do that, he’s looking into the past and across the pond for inspiration. "Jackass is MTV’s highest rated show and the premise is simple enough. When I was a kid, I used to watch the Evel Canevil stunt shows and then go out in the afternoon on my chopper bike and try to replicate the stunts. [Jackass] is basically skate kids in their late twenties and early thirties doing absolutely ridiculous, life-threatening stunts with a sense of humor. You can’t take your eyes off it."
Kirkegaard is pleased programs like Survivor continue to attract viewers and generate advertising dollars, and while he admits some of the shows now hitting the market will probably flop, he believes the cost to benefit ratio for reality programs ensures them a slot in the future. Explains Kirkegaard, "The people who run the finances will look at the difference between a US$10 million episode of er and a half million [dollar] reality episode and they’ll come to their senses."