Unscripted Producers Name Top COVID-Friendly Platforms

Haute Dog
Courtesy of Jax Media

Social distancing on the set of HBO Max's 'Haute Dog.'

In lieu of its annual survey of reality makers, NPACT simply asked producers which buyers have been the best partners since the start of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on the unscripted community. Not just because series volume has been down and restrictions have made production challenging — but because plenty in the world of reality and reality-adjacent TV functioned as guinea pigs before scripted production restarted filming in earnest.

Well, unscripted producers are saying which platforms have been the most helpful to work with during all of the chaos. For its annual survey of nonfiction producers, NPACT skipped on ranking TV players on a variety of criteria — instead asking its membership to name which buyers have been best to work with since everything went to hell in a handbasket. Their top selections, in alphabetical order, are Bravo, Discovery, HBO Max and Netflix.

“In 2020, I witnessed first-hand the ingenuity and commitment of the unscripted production community, on both the seller and buyer sides,” said veteran TV exec and NPACT consultant Ed Wilson. “This industry of creatives and entrepreneurs banded together to share information and resources in order to keep their industry afloat, their staffs and crews safe, and audiences comforted and entertained at a time when they needed it most. Throughout the year, NPACT members were candid and vocal about the support they received from buyers in handling this unprecedented health crisis. I’ve been touched and impressed with producers’ determination to publicly show appreciation, and to continue on a positive path of collaboration into 2021 and beyond.”

For the past few years, NPACT has sponsored a rather juicy survey that’s named who reality producers love working with and, just as interesting, who they find to be cheap and difficult. But membership, representing 100-plus companies in the field, opted to skip the full ranking in 2021 in order to focus on the good news.

Thirty-two different networks and streamers were named, but the previously cited foursome received the most mentions. It says a lot considering the constraints and complications placed on producers over the last 10 months. In addition to having a harder time actually selling, unscripted producers have had to navigate shrunken crews, bubble sets and industry-wide scrutiny.

With the results of the survey, released Friday, a few producers also offered the below testimonials:

“During a difficult time in our industry – and in all of our lives – it’s been so important and positive to be working with networks that looked at the producing community as partners, and that chose to extend the needed costs and efficiencies that helped secure safe environments. These nets allowed production to be possible. I’m grateful that so many buyers took the critical and aggressive measures necessary for production to be reimagined and to run smoothly at the most complex time in recent memory.”
Jenny Daly, Critical Content

“The challenges of COVID-19 have in many ways strengthened relationships between All3Media America’s companies and our network and streaming partners. Throughout the pandemic, we have had consistent support and collaboration, allowing our productions to adapt and keeping our shows on air.”
Rebekah Fry, All3Media America

“Buyers across the non-fiction industry stepped up in the face of the pandemic. Thanks to their courage and professional rigor, the content pipeline continued to flow, countless jobs were saved and businesses were able to weather the storm. Adversity brought out the best in the non-fiction community. And much of the thanks goes to the networks and streamers who kept the lights on even while managing extraordinary challenges across their own companies and at home.
Eli Holzman, Industrial Media

“2020’s pandemic strengthened the trust between networks and production companies. While we were adapting to new ways of producing, shooting safely in the field and remote editing, networks moved quickly on the fly, supplying funds, vetting pages of guidelines, pioneering ways to keep shows running safely. The results are not just temporary. We each learned from this situation and built better ways to move unscripted forward.
Laura Palumbo Johnson, Magilla Entertainment

“The weight of the COVID-19 crisis and the havoc it wreaked on our industry would have been so much more crushing if not for the leadership shown by our network partners. Facing incredible uncertainty themselves, we saw them react nimbly, decisively, and fairly as they steeled their commitment to programming and to the producers for whom that programming translates into crucial jobs for dedicated employees, and dreams for so many."
Ryann Lauckner, Asylum Group

“Production can be tough in the best of times, so the thought of shooting a show during a global pandemic was, at first, extremely daunting. Our network partners came through with heartfelt support, necessary funding and, yes, even constructive notes! Together, we figured out ways to make much needed entertainment, and to stay safe while doing it, keeping many employed in the process. We can’t overstate our appreciation for the patience, understanding and kindness from networks and streamers over the last year.”
Will Nothacker, Spoke Studios