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.
President and general manager, TLC
It’s a time of flux for the content industry, with the advent of SVOD, and more platforms entering the original content space. What is the biggest challenge for network execs such as yourself in this new paradigm?
The biggest challenge is finding content that can break out from all the clutter. It is harder and harder to lure an audience to a new show —they have so much to choose from and so much they are already committed to!
As someone with roots in the indie production world,and who has been greatly involved with it as a network partner for over a decade, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing the unscripted production community today? And what’s the biggest opportunity?
Biggest opportunity for the content creators out there — the producers, developers, casting companies, and production companies, etc.: they have so many more buyers out there to pitch to, so many more distribution networks that are hungry for break-out content.
That’s the good news! At the same time, the biggest chaIlenge: I know how hard it is to sell an idea. We see hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas every year and very little make it through to the finish line. A part of it is limited slots or space, and another part is a limited budget. With so many producers and content creators out there, there is a lot of competition.
Breaking out your crystal ball, what do you think the cable TV industry will look like in three to five years?
I wish I had a crystal ball! I do think that the cable industry will survive, just as the broadcast industry has survived; however, it will adjust and contract to what makes sense for the viewers and what the economics of the industry can support. I truly believe that audiences want and crave a strong brand that curates content for them — and that’s what cable (and broadcast) networks do best.
I know how hard it is to sell an idea. We see hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas every year and very little make it through to the finish line.
What’s your favorite unscripted series from the past 15-20 years?
I’m still a sucker for Big Brother and Survivor. I love the purity of the formats and how they’ve stayed true to their roots, yet feel fresh every year with casting and clever twists. To be fair, I was involved with BB as a producer, then a network exec. With Survivor, I was a huge fan from the first season in 2000, and one of my favorite career moments was getting hired at CBS and becoming a part of that show as a network exec in 2003. I truly felt like I’d won the lottery!
You’ve been with Discovery since 2007, and have been part of the evolving unscripted content industry even prior to that. What words of wisdom would 2017′s Nancy Daniels give to 2007′s Nancy Daniels, about the industry and the opportunities and challenges inherent in working in it?
Follow the people you want to work with. When things are going well, celebrate them loudly. When they aren’t, hunker down, pull close the people you trust, and fight your way out.
Take risks proudly, and learn from every failure.