ALL REALITY, ALL THE TIME
'Reality Central' Cable Network Readies Launch
By Louis Chunovic
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Richard Hatch, winner of the first Survivor, and about 30 other reality stars have signed exclusive three-year contracts to appear
The channel is the brainchild of 26-year-old Blake Mycoskie, a former contestant on CBS's The Amazing Race who raised $750,000 in seed money from other reality show winners as a "test" he was given by cable veteran Larry Namer. Mr. Namer, a founder of what is now E! Entertainment Television, is president-CEO of Reality Central, while Mr. Mycoskie is chairman.
They've brought aboard other industry veterans, including Karen Miller, a programming and production executive, who will be senior vice president for programming and marketing, and Andrew Thau, formerly senior vice president and general manager of operations and strategy for Fox Cable, who will head business development.
The network, which targets the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, expects to start small, with cable affiliations that put it in approximately 3 million homes. It hopes to grow rapidly, both on traditional cable and as a digital tier and reach 7 million homes by the end of the first year and 30 million after two years. No distribution agreements have been announced yet.
$7 million investment
By launch, various backers will have invested $7.1 million, Mr. Namer said. Another $18 million will take Reality Central through its first year. A total of $52 million will take it to the break-even point, which is forecast at the end of the third year, he said.
Mr. Namer recalled his first meeting with Mr. Mycoskie. "I wanted to give him a test," he said. "I basically thought I'd get rid of him. I said, 'In order to get to the point where we even have the name reserved, a business plan, a financial analysis, a brochure, a phone it's a half-million dollars.' I said, 'You gotta go out and raise a half million dollars.' "Blake comes back 10 days later and says, 'OK, I got the half million dollars, but I got another two-fifty that wants to come in. Should I take that too?"
Mr. Namer said he was surprised to hear that Mr. Mycoskie had gone to the contestants who'd beaten him and his sister on The Amazing Race, as well as to winners of Surivior and other reality shows. "You got them to invest in a cable network?" Mr. Namer asked.
'A publicist's dream'
Approximately half the programming on the new network will be "about the genre-interviews with the stars, behind-the-scenes, the making-of, the news, the gossip, etc.," Mr. Namer said. He expects cooperation from reality-show producers because, like many of the shows on E! Entertainment, "we become a publicist's dream."
The balance of the programming will be divided among reality shows acquired from outside the U.S. and reruns of existing series like Surviror, which are generally thought to have little or no back-end potential, a piece of conventional wisdom to which Mr. Namer demurred.
"You're on Survivor 8 now," he said. "Most of the people who are watching Survivor 8 have never see Survivor 1."In addition, the Reality Central plan is to surround the original one-hour episodes with new material, creating in effect 90-minute episodes.
Reality show about Reality Central
They also are producing some material. "Actually, we've been taping digitally the entire making of the network as if it was a reality show itself from the very first day," Mr. Namer said. That show, Meet the Makers, will be available as a streaming-video feed to subscribers with a broadband cable connection, he said. There will also be a news-and-gossip show available as video on demand that Reality Central will provide free to cable operators as another carriage inducement, he added.
If it launches on schedule, Reality Central will be in the market before a similar all-reality network being developed by Fox and News Corp.
~ ~ ~
Mr. Chunovic is a reporter for TelevisionWeek.