Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trouble in Reality...

There’s trouble in the land of reality television this week. The latest reality television controversy stems around NBC’s “The Biggest Loser’s” contestants on the current season, and it just may be a breach of contract for those involved. There are recent reports that all of the remaining contestants of this seasons’ Biggest Loser walked off set and refuse to compete, because producers brought back all previously eliminated contestants to compete once again. Current contestants think this is an unfair move and refuse to compete under the current conditions.

I’ve got a few thoughts about the recent turmoil:

A.     Could this just be a publicity stunt on the behalf of a lower rated season of “The Biggest Loser”?

B.     Are these contestants really that stubborn?

C.     And, if all of this is really true, what kind of crazy lawsuits are on their way from NBC to the walk off contestants?

Regarding the first possibility, I can’t help but think how lame it would be for NBC to stoop to this strategy, yet also brilliant at the same time. I certainly think it has a WWF stage flare to it, but I could see how it would work in the end. If they round up enough Biggest Loser fanatics and blog writers to stir the pot of speculation, perhaps their desired ratings will come forth.

In terms of the second thought, if these contestants are just that stubborn, I, and many other viewers will be disappointed, especially those who tried out for the show and didn’t make it, but would have put their all in changing their lifestyle on the ranch…after all, that’s what the show is all about, right? Riiiiight. Lines get blurred when there’s cash and cameras involved. These contestants may really have let the lure of winning prize money or the rush from getting attention from producers get the best of them. I hope that it’s not true, but then again, I hope that my first speculation isn’t true either. Hmmm. It’s almost a lose-lose here, folks.

And, for my last thought, if this is indeed a stunt that the contestants have pulled off, I would bet there’s going to be some hefty lawsuits filed by NBC and perhaps other affiliates, such as advertisers through product placement, etc. I could be wrong, but I would imagine that signing a contract to be a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” doesn’t leave you much wiggle room to walk off the show and interrupt production and not get penalized in some way. That’s where I will be very curious to the outcome, if it is indeed true, and not just a producer publicity stunt. I’d hate to see things go awry with the network and contestants on something as silly as this.

Time will tell, I guess. May the least drama-filled contestant win! 

'Biggest Loser' Castoff Contestants on Strike Are Sabotaging Their Lives:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Business Tips From Reality Television Star Donald Trump

In honor of one of my favorite reality television shows starting up this month, “The Celebrity Apprentice”, I would like to dedicate this post to our dearly beloved, or not so beloved, Donald Trump. Because this blog focuses on the happenings of reality television through the lens of what I’m learning in my time at Full Sail University in their Master’s of Entertainment Business program, I’ll keep in line with that theme and highlight some business tips from reality star, Mr. Trump.

While Mr. Trump himself was unavailable for a brief interview the next decade, I thought I would go to the next best interview source – the internet- and find some tips from “The Donald” on how to set yourself up well in the precarious world of business.

Below are a few tips on succeeding in business I pulled from a video on YouTube, titled “Donald Trump’s Words of Wisdom”.

“Push your teammates and employees. Don’t push them over the edge, but push them.” What I hear from this is that the people who work with and for you probably have a lot more in them than they think. If you push and challenge them beyond what they would normally do, chances are they are going to be far more productive and successful. Squeeze every ounce of their potential out.

“Separate yourself from the pack.” It’s good to provide some sort of differentiating factor about you or your business that will bring you above the crowd, so to speak. Mr. Trump knows very well how to do this. He provides goods and services that are exceptional and full of quality. In this way, his clients and customers know without a shadow of a doubt they are going to receive the best possible service, and continue to use his services, whether it’s buying property, or going on vacation at his resorts.

“Try not to show your fear. When you hear the “no” you have to figure it out. Maybe you’re doing something wrong. Take that “no” and turn it into “yes”.” Trump says that if you keep hearing “no”, you need to figure out what is keeping you form getting to “yes”. By hearing “no” you are able to make the necessary improvements and become a better person.

Though our man Donald Trump can be quite a controversial figure in the public realm, he really is worth listening to in the area of business. The man knows what he is doing and has been quite successful. Anyone who has the title “billionaire” attached to his or her name probably has some worthwhile advice. Hopefully you find these few tips helpful and put them into practice for your own business endeavors!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Practical Business Plan Tips For the Entrepreneurial Newbie :: Part Two

In my last post I discussed a few things I had learned from professionals who are experts in the area of creating business plans. Reading through the different articles again and coming to the end of a great month in my Business Plan Development class, I thought I would spend a little time talking about the act of market forecasting and also honing in on the right target market for your business.

In my last post, Scott Shane’s article “Start Your Business in a Favorable Industry That You Know Well” was a great building block in digging deeper into market research and forecasting for my business. Because his article only covers a fraction of what I need to learn I decided to look for other articles that talk about the importance of forecasting to get some ideas. One article I came across was simply titled, “What is a market forecast?” by Tim Berry. Mr. Berry unpacks the importance of doing in depth research of your particular industry to make sure there is promise of a growing market in years to come. For my school program I am working on creating a reality television company and have done a bit of research about the television industry in general. For my market research I learned that according to Nielsen, in 2011, there were 115.9 million television households in the US, while there is a suspected first-time-ever decline in 2012 to 114.7 million ( I also learned that according to eMarketer, the average adult spends 4 hours and 34 minutes each day on a television set, which is up 10 minutes from last year.

In terms of revenue, the large national networks are raking in a TON of money:

NBC Universal - $5.2 billion, up 17% in Q4

CBS - $3.9 billion, up 11% in Q4

ABC - $10.4 billion, up 7% in Q4

In addition to the above information, I have learned from reading articles and books that it’s important to be very specific about your target audience. The more specific, the more specialized you can be in your marketing efforts, which will pay off in the long run. Thanks to my Business Plan Development class, I have been able nail down a specific target market as well. Rather than broadly targeting the ever-popular 18-49 year old group that most advertisers go after, I am targeting a group within this group, particularly the passionate millenials (18-29 years old) who have a desire to do something meaningful with their life beyond making money.

With the research I have conducted in the last several weeks I believe that I have been able to see more realistically what my competition and future market success can be. I also have realized that your research is never really complete. Things are always changing and evolving within your market, and it’s important to stay on top of trends in order to make your product as attractive and popular as possible. Overall, I have picked up invaluable insight and advice regarding creating a successful business plan from my professors at Full Sail, as well as all the online research from experts in the business world and entertainment industry.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Business Plan Tips for the Entrepreneurial Newbie

At this very moment, hundreds of thousands of people are creating plans to start up the next great business to solve one of the world’s problems; but the one thing standing in the way? Green…cold, hard cash. That’s where investors come in and evaluate a start up company's business plan and evaluate whether it is a viable idea. In this post, I’ll be taking a brief look into a couple of angel investor’s advice, and some practical tips about what they are looking for in a business plan.

Scott Shane, is a successful author (Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live by (Yale University Press, 2008)) with a teaching background in Entrepreneurial Studies from Western Reserve University. Mr. Shane offers some pretty simple tips for those looking to start up a new business in an article titled, “Start Your Business in a Favorable Industry That You Know Well”. He contends that if you are well-versed in an industry that is not succeeding, such as the auto industry, your odds of success are far less favorable than if you pick starting up a business in the software development industry, which is booming. As you begin to dream up plans for the next big idea, it’s important that you are doing the proper industry research to know if you are working in an industry that will pay out big time, or is past its prime. Knowing the forecast for your industry before launching you business can be very helpful before presenting to investors. Investors will want to know upfront if there is a high success rate in your particular industry and will probably shy away from an industry that has flat-lined.

Marty Zwilling is CEO and Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Callaman Ventures Board Member and Executive in Residence; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups, along with long list of other business accomplishments. Marty hosts a blog (where his previous bio information was snatched) that focuses on giving business startups practical advice on what to include and what to avoid when seeking funding. I read his article titled, “Early Stage Start Ups Need Friends, Family and Fools” and gained some great insights into walking in to a room with a dozens of angel investors. Marty also has some pretty simply tips listed that if followed could be make-it or break-it for a start up. Out of the list of ten or so suggestions there were a couple that particularly stood out including – Ask for the minimum rather than the maximum; and Communicate the risks, and write down the agreement.

Some people may not want to communicate the risks up front for fear of showing weakness in a business plan, but the opposite is true really. If you have you’re your proper research you will be aware of potential pitfalls in your industry or your specific business plan, and be able to plan for and recognize them immediately if they do indeed pop up. This shows that you are responsible and trustworthy.

Regarding asking for the minimum rather than the maximum he goes on to say, “Set some milestones for three or four months out and show what you can do, then ask for more.” In a book I read recently “Start Something That Matters”, by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOM’s Shoes, Blake builds off of this concept of using as little money as possible to get a company off the ground. He speaks in great detail in the book about how the company was able to keep costs low because decisions made up front to not be extravagant in their spending. This equals to the company starting out of his loft apartment in Santa Monica, and now being house in a simple warehouse with many plywood cubicles. If you show investors that you are going to steward their resources well, you’ll have a much better chance in having them open their pocket books.


Scott Shane bio. (2011) Retrieved January 5, 2012 from

Shane, S. (2008) Start your business in a favorable industry that you know well. Retrieved January 5, 2012 from

Zwilling, M. (2011) Early-stage startups need friends, family and fools. Retrieved January 5, 2012 from

Mycoskie, B. (2011) Start something that matters. New York : Spiegel & Grau

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Magical Elves Productions - An overview of a popular reality television production company

For this post, I decided to highlight Magical Elves Productions, a reality television production company  that is doing quite well. Magical Elves Productions is a highly successful Los Angeles based reality television production company most well known for shows such as 2010 Emmy winning, “Top Chef”, “Top Chef: Just Desserts”, “Braxton Family Values” and “Americas Next Best Restaurant”, to name a few.

With a name like Magical Elves, there’s bound to be something interesting, and dare I say, magical, about their programming. In order to get a feel for the company, let’s take a brief look into the main masterminds behind it. Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz formed a working relationship back in 1999 when they both worked for VH1. Hitting Number 19 on “The Hollywood Reporter’s” Reality Power List, the pair has been a force to be reckoned with over the last decade.

In an interview with Variety, this last August, Jane and Dan share that one of the secrets to their success is keeping a sense of humor. From the Variety interview:

"What has characterized our relationship from day one is that in times of great crisis, we usually find a way to make it funny," says Cutforth. "We literally end up laughing about it and then we figure it out. First we freak out, then we laugh about the fact that we freaked out. Then we fix it."

This duo has proved that thinking fast while under pressure is one major key to success in their industry. Another big key to their success is taking on projects that are new and challenging, and maybe outside of their norm. A great example of this is the undertaking of producing the undeniably successful documentary, “Never Say Never” featuring the success of teen sensation, Justin Bieber.  They have proven that stepping outside of the box can prove incredibly beneficial.  According to the website “The Numbers”, “Never Say Never” has grossed over 121 million dollars worldwide in theater and DVD sales. With their track record, Magical Elves shows no signs of letting up in their success. This truly is a company to keep an eye on.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reality Television in the Digital Age : Self Publishing on

It’s no secret in this day and age that the digital landscape has taken over pretty much every area of life. From online shopping to reading your favorite magazine, the Internet and now smart phones and/or other handheld technological devices, life has drastically changed. The way we consume media has especially changed. Brick and mortar buildings in some cases are becoming a thing of the past, especially regarding music and video stores. Another area of media that is also changing due to the digital revolution is reality television.

Reality television is one of the fastest growing genres of television and shows no sign of stopping. It seems every one and their brother has a great idea for reality television, the trick is how to get your show produced and distributed amongst all of the competition. If you or someone you know has tried to create a reality program you are probably aware that the odds are against you in succeeding. Chances are someone else has already taken your idea and it’s on a major network, or no one cares to listen to your awesome pitch. What now?

That’s where the digital age has changed the game for many aspiring reality show producers. I have recently learned about a website titled, that is host for dozens of original web series including reality programming. If you have an idea, a video camera, and a tripod, says COO Dina Kaplan you can host a web series on (click to see a video with more from Dina). It’s that easy. Instead of waiting for the big dogs (producers and networks) to come to you, why not get your show out there in cyber world on a new and growing in popularity medium.

Though blip seems to still be a little bit of a niche market and not quite as mainstream as Youtube, it’s growing and gaining a bit of a following. From Google Ad Sense, they report that every month receives over 3.2 millions users, of which, close to 30% are men between the ages of 24-34 with some college education and an average annual household income of $25,000-$49,999.

Another great aspect of is that you receive revenue every time your shows are viewed due to advertisement you can allow at a few different times during your show. offers a 50/50 compensation plan with it’s show creators(click here for more details). In order to get the most “bang for your buck” blip would recommend opting for pre-roll, overlay, post-roll and mid-roll ads. To learn more about how to earn revenue with blip click here for a video explanation from Steve Woolf, the West Coast Director of Content for

Good luck, self-producers! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

From Pitch, to Pilot, to Millions…or at least enough to pay your studio apartment rent.

With my last post focusing on landing an agent and having that unique proprietary element to get you ahead in the rat race that is reality television, I thought I would point in the direction of some tools I have found helpful in getting one step further to producing great reality television. An interesting website I came across last year is is an assorted jungle of wonderful information whether you’re learning how to cook, date, or most importantly ;-), learn how to produce reality television.  

Here you’ll find some great videos featuring interviews with some very successful reality television executives, giving their inside scoop on how to “make it happen”. Mark Cronin, a reality television executive producer and owner of 51 Minds, takes some time and explains what happens after the pitch and a network actually does like your idea. If a network does indeed bite on your idea they may give you a small amount of money for a treatment, which is usually about a 1-5 page outline of what the show will be. It includes a short logline, a several paragraph synopsis, and then a short breakdown of each episode. From there they may give you money to shoot a pilot, and if they like what they see from there, they may fork out some additional cash to produce the entire series to hopefully air in the “big leagues”.

Cronin gives some simple advice for those looking to pitch. First and foremost, be entertaining. Whatever your show is, make it that way in the pitch. If it’s incredible high energy, make it high energy. If it’s thought provoking and serious, make it just that. Either way, leave your audience looking wanting to know more.

Hopefully this brief post will be at least a little helpful for those who are in the beginning stages of getting their show produced and distributed. Though it may take quite a few years to have the clout to pitch to executives, the time in between is incredibly valuable. Make the most of whatever opportunities come your way, no matter how big or small. Don’t despise the small beginnings; they could one day lead to a big wide open door.