Reality Shows - From Pilot To Broadcast
Reality Shows - From Pilot To Broadcast
Mark Cronin (Founder & Producer) gives expert video advice on: How do focus groups impact the success of a reality show?; What makes a reality show a hit? and more...
What is a 'focus group' in reality show development?
A focus group is a random group of people brought together.
How do focus groups impact the success of a reality show?
Focus grouping is a common method of evaluating a television show project - usually a pilot. They can be used in different ways. Some networks use focus groups as the decision maker. If the focus group liked it, they will green light the show. If the focus group hated it, you're dead. Some networks know what they want, but they want the focus group to help them figure out how to make it better. I prefer that, personally. I feel like the executives who know what they want for their channel, know what they want for their channel independent of what a focus group says or does. If you want to show it to a focus group to find out what their favorite thing is or that something about it is confusing, you can learn from a focus group about your show. I like to see it used as a tool rather than as a decision maker.
What is a network 'pickup' or 'episode order'?
If you're lucky enough to produce a successful pilot that presses the network to the point where you beat out the other pilots, the timing has to be right, and the network actually has to have the money to go to series. Sometimes the network will fund a bunch of pilots and then run out of money and not make any series at all. If you are lucky enough to get all the way to the point where they green light your series, which means they actually want you to make a television show to be on television, that's the pickup moment. It's the same as the green light moment. We are picking up your show for a season. That can mean anything, from six episodes to thirteen episodes to twenty five episodes. In the case of game shows, it's often a lot of episodes, because they are usually daily shows. If it's a daily show, we call it a strip show, meaning it's on every day of the week, stripped across the week. If it's a strip show, they order sixty-five episodes, which is usually 13 weeks worth of programming. It could be any number of episodes; it depends on the show, depends on the network, and depends on the budget. The pickup of a multiple order of episodes for television is what we're all after.
What is the standard episode order in reality TV?
If it's a weekly reality show on cable, you will probably get 6-8 episodes ordered by the network. If you are lucky and it's an elimination show of some sort, you might get 10 or a little bit more. If it's for network, they try to do the same thing actually. Most networks try to pickup only 8 episodes, to see how it goes, and then pickup what they call the back half to get the 13. In the old days, the initial episode order was 13, and then the rest of the series was 26. Those days are gone. Nobody commits to 13 upfront anymore. They try to order a much lower number of episodes to see how it goes, to see if they want to fund the rest of the series.
What makes a reality show a hit?
The answer to that question is very tricky and requires predicting the future a little bit. Often it's either one of two things. A reality show can be a hit because it's so new, it's never been seen before, or it is a hit because it hits exactly where some other show hit: if that other show hit with that, maybe I can hit with that too. That happens a lot. It's one or the other usually, though: the reality show is either so new that nobody's tried it and maybe it's going to make a bit splash and a lot of noise and be a hit, or it's so not new that it's got to be a hit because every other show like it is a hit.
What happens if there are creative differences between a reality show's creators and its network?
If, on a reality show production, there are creative differences between the producer and the network, in my opinion the network ultimately wins that battle because it's their money. It can get so heated to the point where the network fires the producer; they often have the right to do that. In general, you shouldn't let that happen as the reality show producer. The network is your customer; the customer is always right. It's the customers money that is paying for your car. So you need to be very, very careful with how you interact with your network. You need to make the network feel like they are being serviced, and that they are getting what they want, because ultimately, they bought it. They want what they want, not what you want. That's what you sold. Television is not really a medium for prima-donna directors. Movie is great for that. If you know that you are right all of the time and you don't want to take anybody else's input, you should be a movie director, because you will probably get away with that attitude.