People/Biz

Realscreen’s “Real Deal” Q&A: Howard T. Owens of Propagate Content

In 1997, realscreen published its first issue. Over the past two decades, we’ve charted the evolution of the non-fiction content industry, chronicled the rise of reality, and explored the emergence of new ...
November 9, 2017

In 1997, realscreen published its first issue. Over the past two decades, we’ve charted the evolution of the non-fiction content industry, chronicled the rise of reality, and explored the emergence of new platforms aplenty. In honor of 20 years of realscreen, we’ve rounded up several top producers and network execs to discuss the evolution of your industry, from their perspectives, in our Real Deal Q&A series.

Howard T. Owens
Founder and CEO, Propagate Content

Over the course of your career, you’ve been in the thick of the unscripted explosion on cable, broadcast and now, heading towards SVOD and OTT. It’s early days yet, but what are the key things producers used to working in the cable model should know about working with the new platforms?
The streaming world provides a lot of latitude creatively. Once the premium streamers have bought your idea and signed it off, generally speaking, there’s a pretty good degree of creative freedom, provided that you stay on track. In the cable process, generally speaking, it can be a little longer of a development process, and it can be more hands-on in terms of co-development. But the cablers are under pressure from the streamers, and they’re trying to take bigger risks.
They all have their own ways of making things work for their own needs. Amazon, Netflix and Apple all have their own DNA, as does History and PBS. It’s providing great competition, as well as great challenges for producers to keep up with those needs. We’re enjoying developing and producing for both.

What’s your favorite unscripted series from the past 10-15 years?
There are so many… I’d say Deadliest Catch is definitely one of my favorites. It broke boundaries. Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? is still a hard game show to beat. There hasn’t been a trivia show, in my mind, that’s been as strong and innovative as that.

After Nat Geo, you started Propagate and it’s really taken off. How different is it to start a company in 2017 compared to when you launched Reveille?
There is much more opportunity, more buyers, and many more suppliers. There’s also more innovation than ever, so that means you have to be nimble and willing to change. Having a content start-up means putting all your energy into new ideas, elevating the creative conversation and working hard to be a trusted partner in all your relationships.

What words of advice would 2017′s Howard T. Owens give to the Howard T. Owens starting his career in television at William Morris?
Embrace technology. Don’t ever accept status quo, particularly when everyone else is pushing for it. And have fun.

  • Our “Real Deal” Q&A feature first appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of realscreen magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.
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