Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Reality Television: Best practice observations about reality TV

Reality Television: Best practice observations about reality TV

This is a collection of Stephen Harris’s highly original ‘Best Practice’ observations about reality television from

The consistent message is: How producers can improve their chances at earning and then winning pitch meetings for their reality TV show ideas with commissioners of reality television series.

reality television stephenAbout Stephen Harris: Reality Television Expert

Stephen is a senior television executive and producer who has successfully developed and supervised Reality television and other categories for multiple U.S. channels.

He is an active contributor to professional reality TV industry events by leading workshops on reality television statistics, including reality television ratings. He is an expert on the reality TV talent deal.

Peter Hamilton’s regularly partners with Stephen on workshops and publishes these presentations in our newsletter. The highlights are republished here, with links.

What is the chance that a reality television pitch to a US network developer will make it from concept to series? That question was an attention-grabber at our Westdoc Workshop 2012.

Why does this question matter? It exposes the long odds of getting a reality television show idea from series concept to green light. It reveals the filtering processes practiced by reality TV networks. And it raises our respect for producers and network development teams who succeed with the reality television show ideas that they champion.

My Westdoc Workshop partner was Stephen Harris, the LA-based producer and veteran network development executive (A&E and TLC). I asked Stephen to share his workflow as a network program developer and to estimate the ‘pitch survival rate’ at each stage of the assessment process.

reality televisionWarning: Flyover!

• This is a view of reality TV from 30,000 feet.
• It covers character-based reality and unscripted series rather than single docs. But those odds are at least as daunting!
• Stephen cautions that workflows vary from developer to developer and across networks.