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Reality Producers Get Their Own Trade Group; NATPE Veteran Rick Feldman Named Executive Director

Reality Producers Get Their Own Trade Group; NATPE Veteran Rick Feldman Named Executive DirectorFormer NATPE President Rick Feldman has been named executive director of the newly created Nonfiction Producers Association, a nonprofit trade group representing companies that produce documentaries and reality TV shows. Feldman, who served as president of the National Association of Television Program Executives from 2003-12, also was the longtime president and general manager of KCOP-TV Los Angeles. In his new job, he will be the chief spokesman for producers of reality TV shows. Companies that have signed up for the NPA membership include Leftfield Pictures, Original Media, True Entertainment, , Magilla Entertainment, Atlas Media Corp, Big Fish Entertainment, Jane Street Entertainment and Loud TV.

RickFeldman“This organization includes men and women who run companies that, for the most part, have a high degree of employee loyalty and want to have a business where everybody succeeds at all levels,” Feldman told Deadline. “And we’re going to work hard to make sure that that happens.”

In a statement on its founding, the NPA said that it was “created as a professional body that can provide industry information, training and assistance to production companies, their staffs, and production employees, and promote ‘best practices’ that ensure production employees, independent contractors, vendors and other stakeholders have a voice and platform for meaningful discourse that can encourage and contribute to the continued success and welfare of all parties within the nonfiction television industry.”

WGA East Executive Director Lowell Peterson, who has been trying to unionize reality TV writer-producers, said the formation of the new trade group “shows that reality TV is consolidating, is profitable and wants to play in the big leagues. I look forward to sitting with Mr. Feldman and talking about working conditions and respect for the right of employees to bargain collectively.”

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Reality Check: Conrad Green On ‘Utopia,’ Singing Shows & Technology’s Promise

By | Wednesday June 18, 2014 @ 3:37pm PDT

Reality Check: Conrad Green On ‘Utopia,’ Singing Shows & Technology’s PromiseReality Check is a Deadline feature series covering the players, programs and trends in reality television.

At the end of the current 18th season of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, executive producer Conrad Green will leave the show that he has been with since the start. After that many years, end of an era is no hyperbole. Not that the veteran producer and former head of BBC’s Factual Entertainment is getting out of the reality TV game: Green is joining Fox‘s upcoming social experiment reality series Utopia. The series features a group of everyday people who are planted in an isolated, undeveloped location for a whole year and forced to create their own civilization, flaws and all. With that big change coming, Green spoke to Deadline about what the essential skills for success in producing unscripted TV are, the state of singing competition shows and the arrival of Rising Star plus what he would bet on for the next big thing if he were a betting man.

DEADLINE: Big picture things first, what is the state of unscripted TV today?
CONRAD GREEN: I think it’s quite a mature market, at the moment. As in, lots of the big staples have been on air for quite a while. Feels like it’s time for a big, new show that’s completely different to arrive, you know? Competition reality performance shows have been going for quite a long time now, and are still, but aren’t as powerful as they once were, and it feels like it’s time for an innovation. Read More »

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EMMYS: As Television Landscape Shifts, Categories Split

Pete Hammond
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Emmy Campaigning Heats Up

The inclusion of HBO's 'True Detective' into the Best Drama Series race has ratcheted up the tension in the category -- especially for fellow high-profile hopefuls like AMC's 'Breaking Bad' and 'Mad Men'. Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and Dominic Patten discuss.

Awardsline logo_use this oneOne of the bigger challenges facing the Television Academy’s Emmy Awards the past few years is keeping up with the constantly shifting TV landscape. In fact, in March the organization announced it was dropping the formal name by which it always has been known, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The powers that be chose to unload all that “arts and sciences” stuff and even considered dropping “television” altogether until it was decided the word can be used as a brand name to encompass all the delivery systems that are part of modern entertainment. Change is good and the TV Academy has a primetime awards committee working year round to address the latest needs and trends of the medium it represents.

John LeverenceOne of the biggest changes this year is that the miniseries/movie category has been split in two, though the mini/movie acting, writing and directing contests will remain combined. It recognizes the renewed interest in the miniseries format thanks to such hits as History’s juggernauts Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible, among many others. “We had a situation where there was a lack of minis and so we had a consolidation. But then the Board (of Governors) decided there would be a split in 2014 since it looks right now like they are solidly back,” says the TV Academy’s senior vp of awards John Leverence, who adds that this year the number of minis well exceeds the TV Academy’s “Rule of 14” (the number required to trigger a category). Read More »

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Sharp Entertainment’s Reality TV Staff, WGA East File For NLRB Election

By | Tuesday November 26, 2013 @ 5:23pm PST

A group of 150 current and recent writers, producers, and associate producers working at reality TV producer Sharp Entertainment filed today for an National Labor Relations Board election to join the Writers Guild of America East. They seek to establish basic standards including health care, minimum rates, overtime compensation, grievance procedures, and fair credits. The union-seekers are staffers at Sharp’s Pawn Stars, Doomsday Preppers, Fatal Encounters and other programs. Sharp’s hit nonfiction shows include Property Wars and Man Vs. Food. “We’ve come to see union representation and collective bargaining, both at Sharp Entertainment and throughout the industry, as our best chance at building sustainable careers. [A] strong majority of producers and APs working at Sharp Entertainment have now signed union cards designating the WGAE as our collective bargaining agent,” organizers wrote in an open letter. Read More »

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BBC Mounts Celebrity Gymnastics Series ‘Let’s Get Ready To Tumble’

By | Monday October 21, 2013 @ 8:27am PDT

Earlier this month, I wrote about gymnastics as a possible new frontier for celebrity competition shows, and about buzz that the BBC was readying such a project. The broadcaster has now made it official, commissioning Let’s Get Ready To Tumble. The show will air live in Saturday primetime and feature British celebs teamed with international gymnasts to tackle what are being described as “never-before-seen, new-to-TV disciplines.” The announcement could mean there will soon be two celebrity gymnastics formats in the international arena. I recently reported that CORE Media is developing Celebrity Champions in the U.S., an original format that sees former Olympians coach celebrities and has Mary Lou Retton attached as anchor judge. CORE is currently talking to U.S. networks. Read More »

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Shed Media US Adds Two Reality TV Development Execs

By | Friday August 16, 2013 @ 10:37am PDT

Shed Media US, the stateside arm of the British TV production company backed by Warner Bros. International TV, is beefing up its US development team. Dan Snook has been hired as Senior Vice President, Development after serving as SVP of Development at Firecracker Films (TLC’s Gypsy Sisters, Discovery’s Zombie Apocalypse, Lifetime’s The Preachers Wives) and SVP at Eyeworks USA (Spike’s Bar Rescue, MTV’s I Used to be Fat, ABC’s Extreme Make-over: Weight Loss Edition). Joining Snook in developing unscripted content for Shed US is Dave Kuba who will serve as Vice President, Development coming from High Noon Entertainment (SyFy’s Collection Intervention, VH1′s Making Mr. Right). Shed Media US currently produces ten series on six networks including TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, Bravo’s The Real Housewives Of New York, VH1′s Hollywood Exes and Basketball Wives and the upcoming Styled to Rock for Style Network, USA’s It Takes A Choir, and Game Of Crowns for Bravo.

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Produced By Conference: Reality TV Only Getting Bigger, Louder

By | Saturday June 8, 2013 @ 7:03pm PDT

Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s conference coverage.

A group of cable network execs and producers shared their views on the ever-evolving reality TV landscape and how the sales game is changed this afternoon during a Produced By panel sponsored by Deadline Hollywood and entitled, “Reality Isn’t What it Used to Be: Selling Nonfiction Television.” “You used to be able to sell a show off of paper; you didn’t need tape,” recalled Stephanie Drachkovitch, a principal in 44 Blue Productions. “That’s much harder to do now. Also, what would have been a brilliant idea three years ago doesn’t make the bar. It’s not big enough, it’s not loud enough, it’s not gonna move the needle, it’s not gonna break through.” The reason for needing bigger and noisier programming ideas, she believes, is the sheer number of networks and venues doing original reality program content and vying for eyeballs. A&E’s Senior VP of Talent and Production Neil Cohen agreed that it takes a lot more juice for an idea to get sold and gain traction than it did even a couple of years ago. “It’s much more competitive and the expectations are much higher,” he said. “It used to be enough to enough to put a very primitive team together to sell to people like us. Now there’s the expectation that we’ll get a sense of the tone and storytelling style in the concept in the sizzle tape.” Read More »

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Reality Producers Sued Over Death In Discovery Show Copter Crash

By | Wednesday May 29, 2013 @ 5:31pm PDT

Producers JD Roth and Todd Nelson are among the defendants in a wrongful death complaint filed today. They join Van Nuys Copters, Crossbow Helicopters, Orbic Air and several others in the filing (read it here) by Jerie S. Rydstrom, mother of deceased cameraman Darren Rydstrom. He, pilot David Gibbs and cast member Michael Donatelli were killed when their helicopter crashed early on February 10 during filming of a Discovery Channel reality show.

Related: Three Killed During Discovery Channel Reality Channel 

The trio died after being thrown from the copter in an open field at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in Acton. They were shooting a then untitled military show being produced for Discovery Channel by Roth and Nelson’s Eyeworks USA (formerly 3 Ball Prods.). The partners have served as EPs on Biggest Loser as well on other reality series such as Splash and the recently returned Extreme Weight Loss. The suit alleges that pilot Gibbs was not “competent, qualified and sufficiently informed for the flight” for a scene for the show. “As a direct result of the negligent and careless conduct of the above-named defendants, and each of them, Plaintiffs decedent, Darren Arthur Rydstrom, suffered injuries that proved to be fatal”. Read More »

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Will ‘Splash’ Injuries & China Death Force ABC To Evaluate Diving Show Dangers?

By | Sunday April 21, 2013 @ 3:04pm PDT

ABC‘s new injury-plagued Splash isn’t the only reality diving show hampered by safety concerns. Xinhua News Agency reports 18-year-old Peng Jiaxuan, assistant to martial artist/contestant Shi Xiaolong on China’s Celebrity Splash China, drowned in a pool during a training session April 19. The show broadcast on China’s Zhejiang TV and ABC’s Splash are both spin-offs of the original Dutch format. The death happened a day after US Splash contestant Nicole Eggert was injured on the set of ABC’s American version and subsequently hospitalized. In recent weeks fellow contestant Rory Bushfield ruptured an eardrum and Louie Anderson suffered bruised ribs in training, while show-related injuries forced Katherine Webb and Chuy Bravo to quit the show in its first month on the air.

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NTSB Details Fatal Discovery Channel Reality TV Crash

By | Monday February 25, 2013 @ 10:29pm PST

The February 10 helicopter crash that killed three men on the set of an upcoming Discovery Channel reality TV show occurred while the crew was prepping to film a nighttime maneuver, according to a preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board. Pilot David Gibbs, cameraman Darren Rydstrom, and cast member Michael Donatelli were shooting the untitled Eyeworks USA production when the Bell helicopter they were in collided into sloping terrain near Acton, California at 3:30 AM. The NTSB report dated February 22 revealed that “dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed” at the time of the accident. A GoPro camera and LED light panel had been set up on the aircraft’s windshield to film Donatelli, who was to perform a bag drop to a receiver on the ground. “While maneuvering about 60 miles per hour, the helicopter suddenly pitched down and collided with the terrain below the valley’s wall”, said the report. “The production crew had expected the helicopter to perform high passes prior to maneuvering around near the plateau for the action shot and did not have the cameras on the ground set up or filming”.

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UPDATE: Three Killed During Discovery Channel Reality Show Filming

By and | Sunday February 10, 2013 @ 2:38pm PST

3RD UPDATE: All three victims of the helicopter crash have now been officially identified: pilot David Gibbs, 59, of Valencia; cameraman Darren Rydstrom, 45, of Whittier; and cast member Michael Donatelli, 45, of Indiana, PA. Donatelli’s background is unclear, though there is a former elite Special Forces Army officer-turned-private contractor by that name listed in Indiana, PA.

2ND UPDATE: The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office would not release the identities of the victims pending notification of next of kin but multiple sources identified the pilot as 59-year-old David Gibbs, owner of Crossbow Helicopters, the company the permit was issued to; and one of the passengers as Darren Rydstrom, 45, an experienced camera operator and DP.

UPDATED: The 3 died in a helicopter crash while filming a new reality TV series in California. The yet untitled military show is being produced for Discovery Channel by JD Roth and Todd Nelson’s Eyeworks USA (formerly 3 Ball Prods.), whose credits include NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Read More »

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‘Duck Dynasty’ Maker Gurney Productions Sells Controlling Stake To ITV For $40M

By | Saturday December 22, 2012 @ 1:14am PST

The makers of hot cable show Duck Dynasty have just cashed out. British television giant ITV announced today that it’s expanding its U.S. production arm ITV Studios America with the acquisition of Gurney Productions. ITV is paying $40 million for a 61.5% controlling stake in Gurney Productions, best known for Duck Dynasty as well as Auction Hunters, American Digger and Haunted Collector. ITV also has a put and call option to buy the remaining 38.5% which can be exercised from 3 to 5 years after the initial deal. “Gurney Productions is a high margin business with three quarters of its revenues coming from returnable series. The company’s EBITA for 2012 is forecast to be at least $10M,” ITV said Saturday. Gurney Productions will report directly to Paul Buccieri, Managing Director of ITV Studios International and President/CEO of ITV Studios America. Further, Gurney Productions’ revenues will be included in ITV Studio’s international revenues starting in 2013. Sources said the maximum total consideration payable by ITV is $111M, depending on the performance of Gurney Productions over the next 3 to 5 years and payable only if Gurney continues to deliver significant growth. ITV Studios America already produces Read More »

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Syfy Launches Three New Reality Series

By | Wednesday November 28, 2012 @ 9:23am PST

Syfy has added a trio of new reality programming to its line-up for next year. It was announced today that Ghost MineStranded and Notorious Hauntings would premiere on the network in early 2013. “Each of these series takes a known and successful formula and turns it on its head,” said Mark Stern, President, Original Content for Syfy and Co-head, Original Content for Universal Cable Productions. Premiering on January 16, Ghost Mine goes deep into a rumored haunted Oregon mine in the search for gold. Ghost Mine is produced by Endemol’s 51 Minds, with Mark Cronin David Caplan and Jay Bluemke serving as Executive Producers. Premiering on February 27, the six-episode Stranded follows teams as they handled paranormal events in a haunted location. Stranded is produced by Ping Pong Productions and Blumhouse with Brad Kuhlman, Casey Brumels, Josh Gates and Jason Blum executive producing. Lastly Syfy announced Notorious Hauntings. The show features researchers who investigate reports of extreme and dangerous supernatural activity around the world. Notorious Hauntings, which only has a working title right now, will debut in the spring of 2013. The show is produced by Pilgrim Studios with Craig Piligian and Mike Nichols serving as Executive Producers.

Related: Syfy Flips Switch On ‘Robot Combat League’

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Reality TV Lawyer Darin Frank Joins Sloane Offer Weber & Dern

By | Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 12:10pm PST

Darin Frank has become a partner in the Beverly Hills entertainment law firm of Sloane Offer Weber and Dern LLP. Specializing in unscripted television, the attorney’s clients include Sally Ann Salsano’s 495 Productions, producers of MTVs Jersey Shore, Gay Rosenthal Productions, producers of TLC’s Little People, Big World, Jeff Lewis from Bravo’s Flipping Out as well as the rest of the cast of that show and the channel’s Interior Therapy. He also reps the cast of History Channel’s Pawn Stars, the cast of Animal Planet’s Call Of The Wild and the cast of Discovery Channel’s The Devils Ride, among others. Frank’s addition to SOWD is immediate.
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CBS Pulls ’3′ After Just Two Episodes

By | Tuesday July 31, 2012 @ 6:20pm PDT

CBS today yanked its new dating show 3 from the schedule after just two episodes. Repeats of dramas will be put in its regular Sunday slot until The Good Wife returns in the fall. ”It was a show we tried, we were excited about”, CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said at TCA on Sunday. ”It didn’t quite get traction. I think overall the summer has been a little bit soft for everybody”. The show, based on a successful Israeli series, put contestants Libby Lopez, April Francis and Rachel Harley together in a house as they dated their way through 100 men. 3 had the lowest rating the network has ever had with a new series when it debuted on July 27. That was followed by a further fall of 38% when the show aired again on July 29 at 9 PM in what was to be its regular time slot. That airing of 3 drew an overall audience of just 1.8 million viewers. The move by CBS comes one day after ABC pulled the low rated improv bio comedy show Trust Us With Your Life from its schedule after just two weeks.

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EMMYS: Evolving Formats A Tough Reality

By | Wednesday June 27, 2012 @ 11:22pm PDT

Ray Richmond is a contributor to AwardsLine

Boardwalk EmpireThe Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has received a lot of criticism from the TV industry over the past decade for the way the Emmys have dealt with the explosion in reality and unscripted programming. Primary among the gripes are the fact there are too few categories, too many contenders, and too much of a one-size-fits-all framework.

“Everything is simply too lumped together for Emmy consideration,” charges one reality producer. “You’re putting Jersey Shore in the same category as Storage Wars. It makes zero sense.”

In defense of the academy, it hasn’t been easy keeping up with all of the sub-categories and sub-genres that have evolved since the unscripted boom began. And as primetime has changed, it’s worked to keep up. It added the Outstanding Reality Program category in 2001, Reality-Competition Program in 2003 and Reality Host in 2008. That’s in addition to categories honoring top Nonfiction Series and Nonfiction Special.

Related: EMMYS: Reality Competition Overview

And in May, the TV Academy’s Board of Governors voted to approve the creation for the first time of a Reality Peer Group. The move “speaks volumes for the academy’s sense of importance and critical mass that reality has achieved as an industry,” believes John Leverence, the academy’s longtime senior VP of awards.

The denigration aimed at the academy over how it groups and measures reality programming remains a hot button for Leverence. He stresses that the notion that there isn’t a depth of commitment to adequately recognizing the unscripted world is “a misperception. Going back to honoring Arnold Shapiro for Scared Straight in 1979, there’s been a presence and a place within the Emmy Awards for reality programming.” Read More »

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Lip Syncing Flub Surfaces On ‘X Factor’

By | Friday November 4, 2011 @ 11:44am PDT

UPDATE, 4:07 PM: Several readers commented that a similar thing happened toward the end of Thursday night’s X Factor, when the Stereo Hogzz quintet appeared to be singing five-part harmony at one point without having microphones near their lips. And this was during an elimination, or survival, song performance. An X Factor spokesperson revised slightly an earlier statement, with the new one noting: “All competitive songs, including survival songs, are performed live to a backing track. Due to the finalists’ extensive preparation for their Wednesday night performances, the opening ensemble number on the results show is pre-recorded, the same as on other shows.”

PREVIOUS, 11:44 AM: The first-year Fox song competition hit The X Factor has acknowledged that one of its contestants, Leroy Bell, was caught singing along to a pre-recorded track during the opening number on Thursday night’s episode. It became obvious when Bell’s voice was embarrassingly heard singing a couple of seconds before raising the microphone to his lips. A show insider was quick to point out that there’s “a big difference” between singing to a recorded track and lip syncing, though viewers might have trouble distinguishing it. “They are still actually singing, just with a track.” The show released the following statement: “All survival songs are performed live, with just a backing track. For the group ensemble performance, the vocals are pre-recorded to allow acts to concentrate on preparing for their own live competition performances on … Read More »

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Nelson Mandela’s Grandkids Hit The Selling Trail Next Week For New Reality Series

By | Thursday November 3, 2011 @ 3:47pm PDT

Nelson Mandela Grandkids Get Reality Show & Say “We’re Not The African Kardashians”

EXCLUSIVE: Deadline has learned that the three Nelson Mandela granddaughters who will star in their own reality show slated for next year will be making the pitch rounds at the U.S. networks beginning Monday. Rick Leed, the former president of Wind Dancer Production Group (Home Improvement) and who created and executive produced the E! reality series Dr. 90210 for six seasons, is the American producing partner on the series. It’s being distributed internationally and carries the title Being Mandela. The three central characters are Dorothy Adjoa Amuah, 27; her first cousin, Swati Diamini, 32; and Swati’s older sister, 34-year-old Zaziwe Diamini-Manaway (or “Z” for short). All three are granddaughters of Nelson, now 93, who will not participate in the show, nor will any of the womens’ parents. However, Mandela’s grandson Kweku Mandela is another of the producing partners. Leed said this week that the show — scheduled to start shooting in December and debut early next year — is drawing significant interest from “all of the top-tier cable players” including TLC, USA, A&E, Lifetime, Oxygen, E!, TNT, TBS and Bravo. “We’ll be in L.A. taking a very intense round of meetings with broadcasters next week,” he says. “It’s a very competitive situation and a very hot show.” He added that the show already has sold throughout Africa but not yet anywhere in Europe. Read More »

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Kardashians As 2012 Campaign Issue?

By | Wednesday October 19, 2011 @ 5:21am PDT

Back in 1992, sitcom character Murphy Brown became a presidential election issue concerning family values. Now two decades later, it’s threatening to happen again with reality TV characters, the Kardashians. (FYI, their step-dad Bruce Jenner is a Republican…) Here’s what First Lady Michelle Obama said to iVillage.com about her family’s TV habits:

Like most moms, Mrs. Obama regulates television and screen time. The first daughters are not allowed to watch television or be on the computer during the week unless it is related to schoolwork and they can watch limited television on weekends. Are any shows off limits? “Barack really thinks some of the Kardashians — when they watch that stuff — he doesn’t like that as much,” said the First Lady, “but I sort of feel like if we’re talking about it, and I’m more concerned with how they take it in — what did you learn when you watched that. And if they’re learning the right lessons, like, that was crazy, then I’m like, okay.”

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