The 2012 Reality Power List: Part Two
From singing competitions to the Kardashians, unscripted TV today is driven by these 50 behind-the-scenes talents (ranked, of course) who keep adding juice to the red-hot genre.
To call 2012's jockeying for placement on THR's Reality Power List the most competitive ever would be like saying the Kardashians have dabbled a bit in self-promotion. What does it really mean to wield power in reality TV? Is it about having 10 shows on the air or in production, as does Real World creator Jonathan Murray? Or is it, like Jersey Shore creator SallyAnn Salsano has done, about making even the most mundane activities of Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino into breaking-news headlines?
Or maybe power comes in the form of creating a giant hit like The Voice, which, under the guidance of NBC's Paul Telegdy, went from quirky experiment (Cee Lo! Spinning chairs!) to one of the year's most-buzzed-about pop-culture phenomenons. Or, could it be turning one of the highly polarizing events in pop culture last year (i.e., Kim Kardashian's 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries) into one of the guiltiest -- and most lucrative -- pleasures ever broadcast, as did E!'s Lisa Berger?
Reality power comes in all these forms and more. Among the 50 featured on the following pages are high-powered executives, prolific producers, newcomers making waves and veterans of the industry who, in keeping with their world, live and thrive by the only rule that matters: Make it real, and make it really good.
26. Arthur Smith
CEO, A. Smith & Co. Productions
Like his late mentor Dick Clark once experienced, Smith now competes with himself in the expanding universe of networks. "We have Hell's Kitchen on Fox and American Ninja Warrior on NBC, opposite each other," he says. "That's a good problem." After selling his company last year for about $100 million to Tinopolis, Smith, 52, just announced a slew of new shows, including NBC's feel-good prank-fest Surprise with Jenny McCarthy, and the Fox dating show The Choice, hosted by Cat Deeley. "We also have Ultimate Fighting and Trading Spaces. I love the diversity!" says Smith.
27. Brent Montgomery
Owner, Leftfield Pictures
The radaitor in the corner of Brent Montgomery's cramped office on the 23rd floor of a grungy building on 8th Avenue in Manhattan's Midtown West is knocking and hissing. It's late February, and Montgomery -- who produces Pawn Stars for History -- and David George and Rob Shaftel, Leftfield's vp programming and vp development, respectively, are debating titles for an upcoming National Geographic Channel series about New Hampshire demolition experts. In front of them is a list of 130 possible show names compiled from input among Leftfield's nearly 300 employees.
"An intern actually came up with the name Pawn Stars," says Montgomery. "He didn't want to stay in the business. But he got a signed poster and a big place in my heart."
With more than 5.7 million viewers on average for each episode, Pawn is the most-watched series on History. Spinoff Cajun Pawn Stars -- launched last year and filmed in Alexandria, La., a small town 3 ½ hours northwest of the decadence of New Orleans -- is pulling in 3.2 million viewers on average. Pawn Stars -- and Leftfield's ribald double entendre title -- has inspired dozens of pawn-shop knockoffs including TLC's Pawn Queens, Spike's Flea Man and truTV's Hardcore Pawn, perhaps the most blatantly derivative of the bunch.
In the case of the Nat Geo demolition show, Leftfield is mining territory familiar to close watchers of reality television; TLC's The Imploders and Spike's demolition derby Carpocalypse have already come and gone. Leftfield's twist on the concept is similar to A&E's Storage Wars; the demolition experts are blindly bidding on structures targeted for demolition in hope that there is something (copper wire, vintage cars, jewelry) inside.
The title "Demolition Roulette" elicits a round of shrugs. "Smash for Cash" sounds like a game show, and "Money Pit" conjures a home improvement show. Montgomery scans the list: "I wonder if these people have ever watched TV." He stops on No. 91, "Questionable Content: The Search for Storied Treasure." "That person," he says, laughing, "should be fired."
In fact, Montgomery, 37, has fired few people since Leftfield became a player in the reality space after selling its first series -- truTV's The Principal's Office -- in 2008. "For a while I thought I'd never fire anyone, that only crazy executives do that," he says. But a few years ago, he had to deliver his first pink slip after finding out one of his employees offered marijuana to a participant and also erased footage. Apparently it was all in an effort to impress a female participant. Montgomery won't name the person.
Pragmatic and straightforward, he rarely deviates from his casual Friday uniform of jeans and neatly pressed shirt (tucked in). His demeanor stands in contrast to the fast-talking glibness of many industry peers. But he has the canny charm of a salesman. "If we disagree, he listens," says Courtney Montgomery, Brent's 32-year-old wife and Leftfield's head of production. "But I don't just get to overrule him. He'll say, 'Convince me.' "
Working with your spouse "is not for everyone," she adds, and a stipulation was that their offices be on "opposite" sides of the floor. "I don't want to be in that office right next to him," she says, "but to be able to see him for part of the day makes a difference."
Brent Montgomery approaches the task of wrangling heretofore anonymous characters for potential reality series fame with the same candor and inclusiveness. "I always say, 'Never lie to talent,' " he says.
Pawn might owe a debt to PBS' Antiques Roadshow, but its indelible characters -- led by the cagey Rick Harrison and his irascible father, known as "the old man" -- have distinguished the show from its forerunner and the other dangerous-job, male-targeted reality shows (Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch). "On Pawn, the guys basically do nothing," says Montgomery. "They stand around, and they talk. Everybody was having success in the male genre with action. We said, 'Let's do humor.' "
Last year, Pawn was the second-highest-rated reality series on cable behind Jersey Shore; a January 2011 episode from the fourth season was watched by 7.7 million viewers, still an unmatched record for History. Montgomery's collaborative nature has earned him fans among TV's top execs. "He's the last guy to call me and complain about an overage on this or a note on that," says Nancy Dubuc, president and GM of History and Lifetime Networks and Montgomery's frequent breakfast companion."That kind of creative give-and-take is refreshing."
Montgomery had early aspirations to become a sports reporter. After earning his bachelor's in journalism in 1997, he relocated to New York, where he landed a production assistant job on Fox Files, the network's now-defunct primetime newsmagazine that Montgomery describes as "Dateline on crack." In 2003, he picked up and moved to Los Angeles, where he landed a gig producing the syndicated series Blind Date. It was while shooting a "date" in Santa Monica that he had an epiphany about the L.A. temperament.
"We're shooting on the beach. My camera guy is feeding the birds. My sound guy is talking to girls. I'm like, 'Don't you guys want to get this done?' " (Happy to be based in faster-paced New York, Montgomery nonetheless is in the throes of returning to Los Angeles; he's scouting office space with an eye toward opening a Leftfield satellite by year's end.)
In early May, a little less than two months after that initial meeting about the Nat Geo demolition series, the network announced that it had ordered 12 half-hour episodes of Bid & Destroy, a title that conspicuously did not appear on the long list for consideration. Jokes Montgomery, "It's a working title." -- Marisa Guthrie
28. Brooke Karzen
Senior vp alternative series, Warner Horizon Television
After 10 years and 16 cycles, Karzen considers ABC's The Bachelor her "first born," raving about the longevity of the franchise like a proud mama bear. "When we first came on the air, girls were 10, and they're now 20 and rediscovering the show," says the Boston University theater graduate. And the numbers prove it as the dating series remains among the top 10 unscripted offerings in total viewers and all key women demographics. Meanwhile, Bachelor spinoffs The Bachelorette -- which will feature its first single-mother contestant -- and Bachelor Pad will return to ABC later this year with additional cycles. While her first born is growing up nicely, the Kentucky-born and L.A.-raised Karzen is most proud of the success NBC has found with The Voice, having shepherded the singing competition to the air in a flash. "We got the ball and we knew exactly where to run, and we knew we needed to run fast and be on the air before [Fox's] The X Factor," she notes, recalling the initial pitch meeting where then-NBCUniversal executive vp alternative programming Paul Telegdy stopped Karzen midpitch. The former classmate of Julianne Moore and Michael Chiklis remains mum on speculation that NBC will double-pump Voice, noting only that the series will return with its high-profile coaches. When not working in the reality world, Karzen, 51 -- who has been with her partner, Leslye, for 21 years -- is happy to be a "volleyball mom who has a really cool day job" to her 12-year-old daughter, saying with a laugh, "I'm a chauffeur on weekends."
29. Howard T. Owens
President, National Geographic Channels
When National Geographic Channels CEO David Lyle tapped Reveille founding partner Owens, 44, as the group's president in November, he said it was to bring, among other things, a "greater sense of urgency." "I don't like to greenlight things that can't get on the air in six months or less," explains Owens. "In our business, there's an opportunity to be primal and immediate and instinctual, and you lose that if there's too long of a tail on your introduction to your audience." So far, that has translated to Nat Geo's highest-rated series to date (Doomsday Preppers and Wicked Tuna) and stronger pop-culture presence (The Colbert Report recently profiled Doomsday) as Owens has beefed up the New York and L.A. offices with key hires from his new D.C. home base (he's splitting time between D.C. and L.A. until his family joins him there in July) and partnered with Reveille co-founder Ben Silverman's Electus on a development deal. By year's end, he'll also have launched American Gypsies, Bid & Destroy and Brain Games, an adaptation of a successful 2011 special that Owens and Lyle see as typifying the brand as it moves forward.
30. Conrad Green
Executive producer, Dancing With the Stars
Having run through 162 contestants in 14 cycles, Green, 41, understands the scarcity of fame better than most. "I don't think the celebrity gene pool rejuvenates at the same rate we use people," he admits, laughing. And after exhausting so many castmembers, the ratings have taken a notable drop -- especially in the current season, where Dancing has faced off against NBC's The Voice on Mondays and Tuesdays. "In a space that used to have just us and American Idol, there's now so much more," says the Brit, whose first job was painting filing cabinets at a London company called Wall to Wall Television. "We've got The Voice head-to-head with us. You couldn't design a show to compete more with our exact audience." Fortunately for Green, Dancing still stands on its own. Despite dips among coveted adults 18 to 49, both the performance and results shows still rank among the top five weekly network broadcasts in total viewers. Of a rumored "all-star" season that might reinvigorate the series in its upcoming 15th cycle, Green says there has been dialogue: "It would be a rather delicious prospect for the fans and quite a nice change while still being core to the show."
31. Michael Davies
President, Embassy Row
With a portfolio including such shows as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Glee Project and CBS' upcoming The Job, it's no surprise "versatile" is a term frequently used to describe Davies and his Sony-owned Embassy Row production company. But the British producer, who shuttles back and forth between Los Angeles and New York with regularity, says he'd been dabbling across genres -- sports, comedy, game shows, talk, movies, commercials -- for years before Millionaire struck big and he was suddenly dubbed "the game show guy." In the years since, the former ABC and Buena Vista Productions executive has continued to broaden, pushing into documentaries (The Tillman Story), late-night (Watch What Happens Live) and more personality-driven fare (Kathy Griffin's eponymous talk show). "The fact is that I built my whole career on doing everything," says Davies, 46, who played an integral role in series including Whose Line Is It Anyway?, The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show and Comedy Central's Win Ben Stein's Money. Off-duty, the self-proclaimed sports nut who counts playing golf and devouring sporting events on TV among his hobbies hosts a twice-weekly SiriusXM radio show and podcast about soccer.
32. Nick Emmerson
President, Shed Media
It turns out there's a greater value -- beyond headlines -- to laying claim to one of the most controversial reality series in history. Such was the case with Emmerson's docuseries for TLC, All-American Muslim. "Did I ever expect we would be all over Jon Stewart's show, on the front of newspapers? No! It provoked a huge debate that I think television should do sometimes," says the U.K. native, 42, a married father of three. With Muslim shuttered after its first season, he is setting his sights on expanding VH1's top-rated franchise, Basketball Wives (an L.A. spinoff has been given a season-two order), and delving into celebrity culture with Hollywood Exes and Ev and Ocho, chronicling the upcoming nuptials between Wives' Evelyn Lozada and NFL star Chad Ochocinco. Emmerson also is eyeing untapped areas for new fare, one of which comes from Randy Jackson and puts celebrities in jobs outside their respective industries. The buzz word when pitching unscripted projects, says Emmerson, "is to be organic. People want authentic and less constructed shows: 'Would this guy be doing this anyway if it wasn't for a TV show?' "
33. Tom Foreman
Forman won two Emmys for his main claim to reality fame, ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but he was also an awards hog in his past life as a documentary producer: His 2001 CBS doc 9/11 won an Emmy, a Peabody, a WGA and an Edward R. Murrow Award. At Relativity, he says, "some of the things we learned making docs make us better reality producers. The No. 1 rule is, 'Get the hell outta the way.' Our shows are 'doc-ier.' " The military family reunions on Lifetime hit Coming Home are legit, not staged. A producer without Forman's documentary background might not have grabbed the chance to make a reality show from Catfish, the 2010 Sundance hit about filmmaker Nev Schulman's Facebook courtship of a woman who was not who she claimed. "I took one look and said, 'This is doc!' " he says. "Indie cinema and reality are two great tastes that rarely go together, except this time." On MTV's new Catfish, deceived lover Schulman advises others in quest of online love. "It's produced for the MTV audience, it moves a million miles an hour, but ultimately it's just good storytelling," says Forman. "When that door opens and the couple meet, nobody knows what's going to happen next." Forman, 39, says his 3-year-old company will sign more new shows in 2012 than the 18 it did last year, racking up 300 hours of programming. It has 67 projects in production, with 21 series on 15 networks, including GSN's The American Bible Challenge, where Jeff Foxworthy tests contestants' Good Book smarts. "A risky but genius call," says Forman, prophesying success. "I'd rather do that than the 17th big music elimination show. Not that there's anything wrong with that."
34. Nigel Lythgoe
CEO, Nigel Lythgoe Productions
The car stereo in Nigel Lythgoe's Bentley is, like its owner, always working overtime. Scanning the '60s-, '70s- and '80s-themed stations on his Sirius XM satellite radio add-on, the 62-year-old executive producer of Fox's American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance has music on the brain.
Whether it's an upcoming theme or a superstar booking (Katy Perry and Coldplay recently used the Idol stage to perform new singles), time spent interviewing Idol perma-mentor and Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine or a rehearsal with one of the show's finalists, music is an integral component of the series' success -- and Lythgoe and fellow executive producer Ken Warwick have been talking about it since they were 13-year-old classmates in Liverpool. There, in 1963, the two studied only a few miles from the Cavern Club, where The Beatles played their early shows, which is one reason nostalgia still rules on Idol, where bands like Queen and artists such as Billy Joel and Carole King are revered and respect for the classics is the surest barometer of potential.
"If the contestants are successful, then we are going to remain successful -- it's that simple," declares Lythgoe as he reflects on Idol's evolving appeal. "I've always said that it's about the talent, not the judges. I'm very happy where we are right now after 11 seasons."
Lythgoe can get defensive (and more than a little protective) when it comes to making sure that Idol never feels stale, especially to the millions of young people who've literally grown up watching it. Perception, he says, is tantamount, so when the No. 1 show in America for 10 years running is declared prematurely dead or old-fashioned or irrelevant by the media, Lythgoe takes it personally.
See, for instance, his befuddlement over Idol's lack of a major-category Emmy, having lost to The Amazing Race eight times (and Top Chef once) since 2003.
"We have the audition process, which is enormous, then we have the big shows in Vegas, which we do in two days, then there's the live show for three hours every week for months, and then we get three days to put on a finale as big as the Grammys," he says. "I don't know how you then compare that to traveling all around the world on a prerecord."
And don't get him started on the Ryan Seacrest snub for host accolades. Rants Lythgoe: "He's gotten better and better. His timing is now superb. … I don't understand how Ryan has never received the Emmy. I just cannot comprehend how, as good as Jeff Probst is, you can compare that to somebody who hosts a two-hour live show weekly. I don't know what the voters are thinking."
On the other hand, the notion of "you're not good enough" is a key element of Lythgoe's reality ethos.
Having started as a dancer in his teens and early 20s, it's something he has carried his entire life. "Rejection is a dancer's middle name, and that's what this whole thing is about," he says. "No matter what show we're doing." There are a lot of shows on Lythgoe's plate, including Opening Act on E! (premiering July 9), which offers YouTube stars an opportunity to play on the same stage as multiplatinum artists and icons, and A Chance to Dance on Ovation (Aug. 17), on which two British Royal Ballet rebels known as BalletBoyz try to make it on their own, in addition to three scripted programs.
Lythgoe is the talent, too, serving as a judge on Dance as well as creator and executive producer, and on any given day, he seems to do it all at the same time. Lythgoe travels constantly, from Los Angeles to New York to Las Vegas to Nashville to Washington, D.C., and his shooting schedule is just as insane.
A typical week for Lythgoe goes something like this: a red-carpet event Tuesday night; a Wednesday-morning location shoot for Opening Act, then a run-through and dress rehearsal for Idol, an Idol live show, and at 11:30 p.m. he gets the results and starts planning the reveal. Up at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and back to Idol to shoot Iovine's comments. That night is the results show, and on Friday it's back to picking songs for the week ahead and working out arrangements (Lythgoe and Warwick serve as in-house music historians). Saturday might hold a shoot at the Opening Act mansion or auditions for Dance, then it's on to New York for a Sunday gala. You get the picture.
"It's passion, really," says Lythgoe, making no apologies. "It doesn't feel like work because it's so enjoyable. I'm watching other people's talent and admiring it. I'm vampiric -- if they're bad, then I get no energy from them and I'm tired. But if they're good, then I'm sucking energy from them."
When it comes to his chosen TV genre, the original Mr. Nasty abides by another essential tenet of reality: being real. "I don't feel like I put on an act when I go on TV," he says. "I'm always looking for an angle, but you approach things as a human being." -- SHIRLEY HALPERIN
35. Kristen Connolly Vadas
Senior vp alternative programming, The CW*
As The CW readies its most ambitious summer reality slate, Vadas sees an opportunity to gain momentum for the network's sweet-spot season, fall. While Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model was renewed for a 19th cycle -- after parting ways with three veterans -- and is still The CW's top reality hit, the search for the next unscripted franchise has been difficult. "I think if you talk to anyone, it's a challenge," admits Vadas of series like H8R, which was axed for low ratings. She hopes new fare like docusoaps The Catalina and Breaking Pointe, singing-competition series The Star Next Door with Queen Latifah and Oh Sit! will boost the network in time for September. "The hope with Next Door is that we get men, women and even kids," says Vadas, who is expecting her second child in August, adding that she is excited to soon do "the next big relationship show" for the younger generation.
36. Morgan J. Freeman
Founder and president, 11th Street Productions
September's finale of the original Teen Mom series in no way spells an end to the top-rated MTV phenomenon. The second season of Teen Mom 2 finished in February with 3.5 million viewers, prompting the network to order a third incarnation of the 16 and Pregnant spinoff. Freeman, who before his reality TV career directed a Sundance Film Festival award-winning drama at age 27 called Hurricane Streets, and his Manhattan-based 11th Street Productions staff are nostalgic about leaving the four women who started the franchise. "It's very satisfying, having told these stories," he says, noting that they are "open-minded" about future spinoffs with the women and that a decision likely will come after the final Teen Mom season airs. For now, 11th Street has three series in development, of which Freeman, 42, says, "We're really looking to show certain class and political issues, with the teen experience as our target."
MY CRAZIEST REALITY MOMENT: "I'm getting married this October, and I met my fiancee in a maternity ward in Chattanooga, Tenn., the day Bentley, the first baby on the first season of 16 and Pregnant, was born. She worked in public relations at the hospital at the time."
37. Jason Klarman
President, Oxygen Media
Klarman has had a bang-up year: His reality spinoff of Fox's Glee, The Glee Project, became Oxygen's most-watched freshman season finale in August. The competition series, which will return in June, also delivered water-cooler buzz and earned many awards for its digital campaigns, including June's NATPE Innovator Award. Now Klarman, 45, is poised to launch a slew of new titles, including the dance series All the Right Moves and the Star Search-like The Next Big Thing. The New York-based Klarman also touts Oxygen's success in VOD and social-media networking but is realistic about its value, saying with a laugh, "We have to figure out a way to monetize all of it."
38. Matt Kunitz
Executive producer, FremantleMedia North America
When NBC greenlighted a reboot of Fear Factor with original host Joe Rogan (the show had been off the air since 2006), Kunitz admits revisiting the series was bizarre. "When we came back, it was like we had been in a coma, woke up and went back to work," he says. After a busy 12-year relationship with Endemol, he is embarking on a new, lucrative two-year deal with FremantleMedia that will include developing what he calls "gigantic action-adventure shows." The L.A.-based New York native, 43, who began his career answering phones at Bunim/Murray Productions, is waiting for the day "a shiny-floor game show" in an air-conditioned studio comes his way. While recently standing in 100-degree weather on Wipeout's San Fernando Valley set, he wondered aloud, "Why couldn't I have done Deal or No Deal?"
39. Jeff Olde
Executive vp original programming and production, VH1
Despite the prominence of his network's docusoaps about the over-the-top lives of an eclectic mix of women (Mob Wives, Love & Hip Hop, Basketball Wives), Olde says VH1 has not jettisoned its musical roots. "There's more music now than at any other time," he says of resurrecting Behind the Music, Storytellers and Pop Up Video and ordering 50 additional installments of Pop Up. And the network has found ratings gold with T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, about rapper T.I.'s attempt at a career comeback. The first season averaged 2.3 million viewers, making it VH1's highest-rated new show in nearly three years (since For the Love of Ray J in April 2009). "Music is the backdrop," says the Los Angeles-based Olde, 46, by phone from the Atlanta set of scripted series Single Ladies. Mob Wives, about Staten Island women whose husbands or fathers are doing time, already has inspired its first spinoff -- Mob Wives: Chicago bows June 10. "No one has ever told this story from the female point of view," says the married Olde. "Their husbands are in jail, dead or on the run. You'd love to hang out with them for a night but probably don't want to meet them in a dark alley."
40. Holly Jacobs
Executive vp reality and syndication programming, Sony Pictures Television*
In its third season, the SPT-produced reality series Shark Tank has found its groove, hitting series highs and witnessing aspiring entrepreneurs often coming aboard with pennies in their pockets and an idea in their mind that becomes a hit with the investor panel and completely changes the entrepreneurs' lives. "It's in an elevated place this season," says Jacobs of the series, which added Mark Cuban as a regular panel member this year. In addition to her unscripted-series duties -- which include shepherding pilots from such producers as Michael Davies (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) -- Jacobs, who has her masters in art therapy, is staying optimistic that The Sing-Off will return for a fourth season on NBC. "Every time we tape, there are always people on the brink of disaster whose lives change right in front of you," she says.
41. Bertram Van Munster
Co-creator and co-executive producer, The Amazing Race*
Losing the Emmy for the first time in the reality-competition category's history in 2010 was a blow to Van Munster, but it made it that much sweeter when the CBS series reclaimed the kudos from Top Chef last September. "Normally people don't go back to winning," he says. "It means that the academy takes the show very seriously." The Netherlands-born Van Munster estimates he has circled the globe 57 times in the last 10 years for Race, seeing little fluctuation in ratings in that time. His biggest non-Race endeavor is the summer launch of The Great Escape: a collaboration between Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Van Munster's producer-wife, Elise Doganieri, the 10-episode run marks TNT's foray into the reality genre.
42. Charlie Corwin
Co-founder and CEO, Original Media
Though he has more than a dozen productions, the New York-based Corwin continues to add to his arsenal. The success of tattoo competition series Ink Masters helped put Spike on the map, Swamp People boosted History's stock (and has a spinoff on the way) and Comic Book Men, set at Kevin Smith's New Jersey comics store, was AMC's first foray into the unscripted realm. When Corwin, 39, isn't also juggling features (The Toxic Avenger remake, Sunlight Jr. with Naomi Watts), he's looking for big TV personalities with unique stories: "The worlds of Kevin Smith and tattoos are perfect examples of that."
43. Marc Juris
Executive vp and chief operating officer, truTV
"It's about bringing viewers into a world they didn't know much about," Juris, the former general manager of Court TV, says of truTV's rich lineup, which includes the popular Hardcore Pawn franchise, Lizard Lick Towing and Storage Hunters. TruTV charts in the top 10 basic cable networks among men 18 to 49, but there is more to be done. One area Juris, 47, a graduate of Syracuse University, believes is yet untapped is what he calls "comedic reality," a category first-year series Impractical Jokers falls under. "We think it's absolutely brand-defining," says Juris, who also has made a big commitment to new series Killer Karaoke.
44. Salaam Coleman Smith
President, The Style Network
With a slate of fashionable unscripted series including Giuliana & Bill, Tia & Tamera, Jerseylicious and Big Rich Texas, Style achieved its most-watched year in the network's 13-year history in 2011. The first quarter 2012 was its highest-rated first quarter ever. Smith has been running Style, which is in 75 million cable homes, since 2008, when she was promoted to president from executive vp, and before Style became part of the NBCUniversal family and Lauren Zalaznick's portfolio with the Comcast merger in early 2011. The married mother of two has made Style a destination for character-driven reality. "Viewers also get fashion tips when they see what Giuliana is wearing in a particular episode," says Smith, 45, with a laugh. Style is also laying the groundwork for a reality franchise a la Bravo's Real Housewives, bowing another salon-set docusoap, this time set in Chicago. Chicagolicious, premiering June 11, centers on a salon that caters to African Americans. "Diversity is very important to me," says Smith.
45. J.D. Roth and Todd Nelson
CEOs, 3 Ball Productions
The pair, who began working together two decades ago on the hit kids show Fun House, hosted by Roth, have been busy growing their weight-loss empire with such series as ABC's Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition and MTV's I Used to Be Fat. "This year we'll do over 200 hours of transformation TV," says Roth, 44. Nelson and Roth's Redondo Beach-based 3 Ball Productions ventures outside of the genre as well, with projects like Spike's Bar Rescue, Discovery's Flying Wild Alaska and CMT's Texas Women. The year has had hiccups, too, with Roth and Nelson, 54, no longer involved day to day with NBC's long-running The Biggest Loser and their daytime effort The Revolution canceled in April. "We tried to serve too many masters," Roth says of the latter's demise. The best friends live six doors apart in Manhattan Beach, where their wives and kids spend much of their time together.
46. Kris Jenner
Executive producer and star, Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Love them or hate them, Jenner and her Kardashian offspring have turned out four hyper-successful shows on E! (the Jan. 29 season finale of Kourtney and Kim Take New York averaged 4.5 million viewers). Jenner recently inked a lucrative deal to deliver three additional seasons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians for E! and cites the deal as her biggest professional accomplishment of the past year (it's reportedly worth upward of $40 million). The 56-year-old mother of six -- who married Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner in 1991 -- acutely understands the value E!'s Kardashian franchise has on her family's popularity and lucrative offshoots, including seven-figure appearance deals for her daughters, countless endorsements and a Sears clothing line. Her greatest challenge? "Trying to fit it all in," she says.
47. Chris Grant
Six months into Grant's assuming the top position at Electus, the multimedia entertainment company has a reality slate that includes NBC's fledgling Fashion Star and VH1's popular Mob Wives, both of which already have been sold in more than 100 international territories. "Ideas should transcend borders," says the 33-year-old married executive. "We often use that thesis to determine whether an idea is worthy of development." It's a skill he honed in the three years he spent as president of Shine International, home to MasterChef, The Biggest Loser and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, and before that Reveille, where he, along with Electus founder and chairman Ben Silverman, launched beloved scripted series such as The Office and Ugly Betty.
48. Meryl Poster
Executive producer, The Weinstein Co.
Since her transition from film to TV last year, former Miramax co-president Poster has taken the lead on two major reality franchises at Weinstein: the eight-year-old Project Runway and skyrocketing VH1 docusoap Mob Wives. "It's like seeing a box from Tiffany," Poster, 48, says of Runway, which pulled in nearly 3 million viewers for its ninth-season finale. "You know it's quality and what to expect of it." Mob Wives is growing at a rapid pace, with the Chicago spinoff bowing June 10 and creator Jennifer Graziano plotting a scripted venture. But the mother of two and New York City native also is focused on unscripted: Weinstein currently has a project at FX, a collaboration with Ryan Seacrest for ABC's The Nanny Diaries and two other series in development.
49. Bethenny Frankel
Star and executive producer, Bethenny Ever After
Last year, 41-year-old Frankel sold her Skinnygirl Cocktail line to Beam Global for a staggering $120 million, due heavily to the brand's promotion on the successful Bravo series The Real Housewives of New York and her well-rated spinoff Bethenny Ever After (the series debuted as Bravo's highest-rated first-season premiere to date with 2.1 million total viewers, but has fallen off for its third season with an average of 1.3 million viewers). The New York native is currently researching philanthropies to which to donate her resources. "Choosing a charity is one of the most challenging decisions I've faced in business!" says Frankel, who also recently secured a six-week test run for a self-titled daily talk show in six Fox network markets.
50. Charlie Ebersol and Justin Hochberg
Co-founders, The Hochberg Ebersol Company
Two years into their company, the L.A.-based Hochberg, 43, and Ebersol, 29, are gearing up to launch TNT's The Great Escape and USA's The Moment, a big foray into reality for both networks. "The expectations are through the roof," says Ebersol, who met Hochberg while working on NBC's terrorist tracking series The Wanted. Hochberg started in digital media at Microsoft, while Ebersol, the son of NBC Sports honcho Dick, made his mark with documentaries. "We're like chocolate and peanut butter," says Hochberg. "Better together."
CONTENDERS FOR THE 2013 LIST: These nine reality power players are in good standing to compete to be in next year's top 50
Jeff Collins | President, Collins Avenue: You can thank Collins for creating Lifetime's hitmaker spectacle Dance Moms, just one of the 17 series or pilots his young shingle has sold to networks during the past three years.
Jayson Dinsmore | Head of development, CMT: He has overseen CMT's highest-rated series, scripted or reality -- Bayou Billionaires and My Big Redneck Vacation -- both of which were renewed for second seasons in February.
Wayne Garvie | Managing director international media, All3Media: With a portfolio that includes Studio Lambert and Gordon Ramsay's One Potato, Two Potato, U.K. native Garvie's influence in the U.S. is growing. He also created Strictly Come Dancing, the British dance series that inspired Dancing With the Stars.
Jennifer Graziano | Creator, Mob Wives: The godmother of VH1's mafioso spin on Real Housewives is expanding her family with a forthcoming spinoff set in Chicago.
Valerie Hasel Drescher and Rebecca Toth Diefenbach | Partners, Sirens Media: The brain trust behind Bravo's highest-rated of the Housewives franchise, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, the pair has projects in development at Animal Planet and A&E.
Amy Introcaso-Davis | Executive vp programming, GSN: The veteran Oxygen executive is rolling out a slew of high-profile shows in 2012, including The American Bible Challenge with Jeff Foxworthy, produced by reality heavyweights Tom Forman and Michael Davies.
Lauren Lexton and Tom Rogan | Principals, Authentic Entertainment: Lexton and Rogan produce the controversial favorite Toddlers & Tiaras for TLC and the popular Jeff Lewis starrer Flipping Out on Bravo, which recently spawned the successful spinoff Interior Therapy.
Natalka Znak | Acting CEO, Zodiak: Now overseeing a staff of 500, Znak assumed the post left by departed CEO Grant Mansfield earlier this year, placing her at the helm of the world's third-largest independent production company behind Endemol and Fremantle.
PROFILES WRITTEN BY: Tim Appelo, Leslie Bruce, Lesley Goldberg, Marisa Guthrie, Shirley Halperin, Michael O'Connell, Philiana Ng, Lacey Rose and Stacey Wilson
METHODOLOGY: Selections for THR's fifth annual Reality Power List were based on the following criteria: 1. The indelible mark each person makes on his or her show as producer, executive or talent. 2. Greenlight power and ratings. To what degree can he or she get a show on the air, and keep it there? 3. Personal and professional reputation in the business. 4. To what degree the person has sparked a water-cooler factor. 5. The breadth of work done in the U.S.
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