Reality TV is a lot like Russian Roulette, so it’s perhaps a little surprising that it took this long for someone to try and game the odds. The Nonfiction Producers Association released a first-of-its-kind study Jan. 17, ranking where alternative producers like to pitch — and where they’d rather take a preemptive pass.
Big cable groups dominate the list, with sisters History and A&E occupying the top two slots overall and among specific rankings based on executive creativity, the development process, business affairs, oversight and production management. The study, the product of feedback from staff at 41 participating production companies, also gave high marks to Discovery Channel and spinoff net ID. The bottom of the totem pole is dominated by Viacom channels, with CMT pulling up the absolute rear with an unappealing score of 3.4 out of 10. And it’s not just because they’re buying comparatively fewer series.
“It’s probably no coincidence that networks that buy the largest volume of programming, placed, for the most part, in the top 10 spots,” notes NPA General Manager John Ford. “We did tabulate the results to ensure the survey didn’t penalize networks that don’t buy what certain producers sell.”
There is indeed less output on the bottom of the rankings (all of them copied below) and the NPA noted that the study is more anecdotal than scientific. Still, difference between the top and bottom of the rankings are dramatic.
Earlier Tuesday, speaking at the Miami meeting of the National Association of Television Program Executives, A+E Networks topper Nancy Dubuc made reference to her own volume — and how the reality model’s evolution is leading to more strategic buying. “It was self-syndication in some ways,” she said. “You would put something on and repeat it five times.”
Not anymore. The failure of repeats and of derivative reality are making networks even discerning about their purchases. “The costs have risen dramatically over the last couple of years,” added Dubuc. “That’s not sustainable for those of us buying hundreds and hundreds of hours a year.”