RDF USA CEO gives lowdown on reality

Chris Coelen, CEO of RDF USA and Pangea Management Group , gave some insights into the reality TV realm at Tuesday's Playback Innovations Forum in Toronto. In an onstage interview, Coelen touched on a range of issues, including a flat out denial of digital media's worth.
October 30, 2008

With a portfolio that includes Don’t Forget the Lyrics, How to Look Good Naked on Lifetime and The Two Coreys, RDF USA is an obvious champion of reality TV. And Coelen sees no end in sight to the reality genre because of its cheap and easy factor. But the tides have changed since mega-hits Survivor and American Idol exploded onto the scene, he says. Then, it felt at the time that anything could be a hit. Now that period is ending with too many derivative formats (three judges, one mean Brit and one perky American) on TV. Coelen admits RDF also fell into this trap with this summer’s Dance Machine, which failed because viewers had dance fatigue. Otherwise, Coelen says that RDF USA constantly strives to be fresh and original.

His advice on getting a winning reality format: find an easy to promote, easy to get, and a loud provocative idea, like the company’s own Wife Swap. The premise of that program need not be explained. Other words of wisdom included coming to networks via an agent or through a partnership with a respectable production company to get access.

As for the digital media bash, Coelen said there’s no money in that arena, and that nobody wants to hear about Internet or mobile. If it’s a way to make money, then great, but they’re not, according to Coelen.

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.