Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

COVID-19 Recovery: Picking the ‘Pawn Stars’ of the Coronavirus Recession? A Case Study

What program or genre will be a blazing success when we make the inevitable economic recovery from these dark weeks?

Well, History can teach us a lesson.

I’m talking about two meanings of ‘History’:

  • ‘The study of the past’
  • And A+E Networks’ History Channel.

Pawn Stars

  • While the 2008 Recession tore through consumers’ wallets and hopes, programmers knew that there would also be a shift in their viewers’ entertainment preferences.
  • History’s team looked to the past, recalling programs that comforted Americans as they navigated the Great Depression.
  • They sent out an RFP to producers for programs that linked light comedy, a new appreciation of thrift, big characters, and all this in an entertaining format.
  • Leftfield Pictures’ Brent Montgomery responded to the call during a trip to Las Vegas, and the hit Pawn Stars was born.
  • Pawn Stars led a post-GFC wave of thrifty and buck-for-nothing cable shows, like Storage Wars.
  • Years later, Leftfield was acquired at a valuation of around $450 million.

Case Study

  • I covered the rise and rise of Pawn Stars in great depth in a series of posts.
  • We also recorded a Pawn Stars webinar for the New York State Bar Association that was produced by Pamela Jones, Atty.
  • The speakers are: super agent Rob Miller, A+E Networks’ Mary Donohue, and Brent Montgomery.
  • The post/video package is very relevant today as you ask “What next?”
  • It captures the process between network buyers and producers in a stressful time!
  • Video highlights follow…


Part 3. Concept & Pitch‬

  • How the Pawn Stars concept was developed and pitched.
  • The contributions of History’s Development team, Leftfield, and agent Rob Miller.

Part 4. A Series for Hard Times‬

  • We discuss how History’s development team shaped the series concept using references to hit shows from different eras.
  • Was ‘Antiques Roadshow’ a model?
  • Mary Donahue was inspired by the appetite for screwball comedies during hard times.
  • Brent emphasizes ‘stakes’ and ”the haggle.’
  • Watch the video ‘A Series for Hard Times’ here

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