'Jersey Shore' Creator Fires Shots at Reality Community
"I have networks calling me and saying, 'Can I steal one of your showrunners?' No, how about you hire a f—ing company that can make a show?"
SallyAnn Salsano, not unlike the stars of her most famous show, has never been one to mince words. The Jersey Shore producer is often outspoken, and Tuesday's appearance with several other reality producers and executives proved no exception — with the 495 Productions topper going off on the growing number of production companies in the market.
"Just because you have a logo, doesn't mean you have a company," she said, bemoaning the lack of qualified showrunners and producers in the presently embattled reality climate. "I have networks calling me saying, 'Can I steal one of your showrunners?' No, how about you hire a f—ing company that can make a show? How is that even a normal phone call that I got three times last week? It's not OK. But it's real."
Salsano used the NATPE panel — the suitably titled, if incredibly long-winded, "Doing Business in Cable – The Process: Is It Working?" — to gripe with some of her contemporaries about what isn't working. And on top of them all agreeing that there aren't enough qualified unscripted showrunners, another issue is the increasingly long gap between pitch and premiere. "I've never seen so many people in the decision-making process," echoed Thinkfactory Media's Adam Reed. "The [development] process is taking six months to a year to get to series on [the air]. It's a vicious cycle, and I don't know how to fix it."
"The six months to a year process is unpaid," Salsano reminded the crowd. "You have to get to series to break even. If you don't, you're out 100 grand."
The producers described a game of telephone that has led to unscripted executives increasingly unable to sell network chiefs on reality pitches. Salsano recalled one recent exchange with an executive who came back to her with a series order for something she hadn't even brought in: "Not to be a dick, I could just say yes, but that's not the show I pitched."
Salsano, who sold a majority stake in 495 to FremantleMedia in 2014, has never repeated the ratings highs she gave MTV with Jersey Shore — not that anyone else has, either. With the exception of Duck Dynasty, cable's crowded reality landscape has not seen a runaway success in years.
MTV has been one of the networks to suffer from the reality fatigue. And, per panel moderator and UTA partner Brett Hansen, the network's recent rebrand has made it harder to sell the network a show. "MTV is a place we've all done lots of business," he said. "It used to be really obvious what was an MTV show. I feel like MTV is emblematic, somewhat, of what is going on in cable ... certain channels that have lost their way and don't know who they are."
Not naming names, Salsano raised eyebrows when she told the crowd, "The places I've had the biggest success, I've been treated the absolute shittiest. I can't even say 'the worst.'"
Comments like these went over very well with the Miami Beach crowd, leaving one member of the audience to ask her if she'd ever consider being on the other side of the cameras.
"I would never work again," she said, laughing. "It would have to be a 20-season order upfront."