NBC's Reality Push: Eight Producers Sign New Deals
This story first appeared in the May 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
In a bid to court talent and the viewers that could come with it, NBC has inked eight development deals with some of the industry's top reality producers.
Jason Ehrlich (The Bachelor), Alex Katz (The Biggest Loser), David A. Hurwitz (Fear Factor) and Lee Metzger (The Voice) comprise the latest batch to sign on with the network. They join Howie Mandel and Jason Raff (both America's Got Talent), Tom Shelly (Love in the Wild) and former NBC executive vp alternative programming, development and specials Craig Plestis (Minute to Win It) with development pacts at NBC.
The new deals "allow us to partner with an array of stellar producers who are proven leaders in alternative programming and provide NBC with tremendous creative resources," says alternative and late-night programming president Paul Telegdy, the gregarious Brit who was recruited to NBC in 2008. "We have stacked the deck."
Mandel has been attached to a game show, Howie Mandel's White Elephant, based on the holiday gift-swapping tradition. Hurwitz recently reprised his role as an EP on Fear Factor and will serve in the same capacity on Mark Burnett and Dick Wolf's upcoming competition series Stars Earn Stripes, where celebrities take on strenuous military challenges.
The moves come as the network looks to crawl its way out of the ratings basement, where it has dwelled for the better part of a decade. Of late, it is NBC's unscripted series, led by singing competition The Voice and summer offering America's Got Talent, that have helped prop up ratings as viewers increasingly tune out its scripted offerings.
Despite recent dips, The Voice, which benefited from the 111.3 million-person Super Bowl platform as its second-season launchpad, is garnering an impressive 6.3 rating in the 18-to-49 demo this season.
Other unscripted efforts, including a revamped Fear Factor, Apprentice and Biggest Loser, are outrating the bulk of the network's Thursday night comedies, from Community to 30 Rock to Parks and Recreation. The hotly anticipated addition of Howard Stern to the Got Talent judges table beginning May 14 has sent expectations soaring for that series as well.
Locking up talent is part of a larger rebuilding strategy at the network. NBC's sister studio, Universal Television, has spent recent months signing up such scripted producers as Nurse Jackie's Liz Brixius, Luther's Neil Cross and Better Off Ted's Victor Fresco as well.