Taking reality to the extreme

While much of the Extreme Sports Channel's offerings consist of sporting events such as the X Games, the channel's acquisitions manager, Tim MacMullen, will be looking for more reality fare in the new year to draw in a wider audience. Look for more about the audience for extreme sports programming in the November/December issue of realscreen.
November 16, 2009

Much of the Extreme Sports Channel’s programming consists of sporting events such as the X Games, but the channel’s acquisitions manager, Tim MacMullen, says in the next year he will be looking for more reality fare to draw in a wider audience.

Is the channel looking for more reality-style programming concerning the people who participate in extreme sports?
I think that’s a really interesting area for us and something that we’re looking at quite hard for next year. I think things with human interest and narrative stories are probably one of the directions we’re going to go in quite strongly, while remaining true to our extreme sports roots and keeping all the events like X Games and the Dew Tour. There is perhaps a little bit more depth below that that’s going to be interesting for people who really love extreme sports but also for a broader audience.
Like every channel, we always want more and more viewers no matter how well we’re doing. So if we can find programming that works for our traditional core audience but also broadens the house a bit, that’s got to be good for everyone, I think.

What types of programs do you find producers are bringing to you most often right now, and how much of your programming is acquisitions versus original commissions?

I would say we’re at least 95% straight acquisitions. We have had a lot of the reality, behind the scenes, day in the life kind of stuff. In the last six months, that is the stuff that’s coming up most frequently.

What would make a reality-based extreme sports program work for you?
I think it’s got to be honest. Our audience can spot fakers and contrived scenes quite easily. I’ve screened a couple of series, which I won’t name, and you felt it was very much going for a comedic sort of drama and you didn’t feel like it was real, which I don’t think would work for us.

How easy is it to take extreme sports and integrate them into a travel or reality program?
I think it’s very easy to do, but it’s very difficult to do well. One of my least favorite times when people are trying to pitch me their shows is when they just throw in ‘extreme’ as an adjective in an off-hand way. ‘Oh, it’s really extreme because we’ve got X-Y-Z.’ That isn’t that helpful to me.

Look for more about the audience for extreme sports programming in the November/December issue of realscreen.

About The Author
Justin Anderson joined Realscreen as senior staff writer in 2021, reporting and writing stories for the newsletter and magazine. During his 20-year career he’s filled a variety of roles as a writer and editor at a number of media organizations, covering news and current affairs as well as business, tech, the film and music industries and plenty in between. He’s also spent time behind the scenes in television production, having written everything from voiceover scripts for documentaries to marketing copy. He has a degree in Journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).