Reality wants in on ad action

Burnett says direct contact with buyers would boost nets' bottom lines

Mark Burnett called for reality producers to be allowed a seat at the table when network execs talk about their programming with advertisers.

During a gathering of reality hitmakers at a Hollywood Radio & Television Society luncheon Wednesday in Beverly Hills, Burnett was asked by moderator Jeff Probst what is the most frustrating aspect of dealing with networks.

"The biggest problem is the massive disconnect … between creative producers and ad sales," the "Apprentice" creator said. "The dumbest thing in the world is that the people who are trying to sell advertising — the entire reason for this business — are explaining what the content is after hearing about it third-hand. We're not there to say, 'Here's what the show is, here's my vision, here's the feel of it, and here's how I think some of your products could integrate seamlessly without harming the experience for the viewers.' "

Burnett acknowledged he's sometimes allowed more access than typical producers. But he emphasized all parties would benefit from producers being permitted into the ad sales process — while acknowledging the challenge of getting everybody on board with the idea.

"It would take a massive amount of confidence on the part of the ad sales because they're paranoid about their commissions," he said.

But reality TV's ease of delivering product integration also was cited as one of the clear benefits of the genre, with panelists expressing considerable optimism about the future.

"Unscripted television is in a better position to take advantage of the changes in the business," "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" executive producer Michael Davies said.

Producers also called for networks to take a look at Saturday, a popular evening of viewing in the U.K. but mostly ignored here. (partialdiff)
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