Channeling Reality

Apr 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Richard Hatch, winner of the first Survivor, and about 30 other reality stars have signed exclusive three-year contracts to appear on and promote Reality Central, the first all-reality programming digital cable channel, which plans to launch in January.

It 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 and 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 VP of programming and marketing; and Andrew Thau, formerly senior VP and general manager of operations and strategy for Fox Cable, who will head business development.

The network, which targets the 18 to 34 demo, 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.

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 Survivor and other reality shows. “You got them to invest in a cable network?” Mr. Namer asked.

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. The balance of the programming will be divided among reality shows acquired from outside the United States and reruns of existing series such as Survivor.