Endemol North America Chairman David Goldberg on Steve Harvey, Honey Boo Boo and the Next Big Reality Genre (Q&A)
Endemol North America's David Goldberg Stepping Down as Chairman and CEO
This story first appeared in the Nov. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
More than a decade ago, David Goldberg helped pioneer the reality TV genre as founder of unscripted powerhouse Endemol North America. Such series as Fear Factor, Deal or No Deal and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition followed. More recently, the home of Big Brother and Wipeout launched Endemol Studios and acquired smaller production companies including 51 Minds (Flavor of Love), Authentic Entertainment (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) and Original Media (Swamp People). Now, the Connecticut-reared executive and father of three, who spent several years at Telepictures, is pushing Endemol into new genres: scripted (AMC’s Hell on Wheels) and syndicated daytime (Steve Harvey). The latter, for which he has been commuting from Los Angeles to Harvey’s set in Chicago, is off to a strong start, with an impressive 1.0 rating in the key women 25-to- 54 demographic. Goldberg, 48, sat down in his West Hollywood office — the space that once belonged to Michael Jackson — to discuss the genre ripe for a comeback, the cultural ramifications of Honey Boo Boo and the future (yes, there might well be more) of Fear Factor.
The Hollywood Reporter: What is the next big reality TV genre?
David Goldberg: I think networks are going to look for a big game show because they’re relatively inexpensive and you can produce them in mass quantities and use them to plug holes. On one of our final years of Deal or No Deal, we produced 72 hours. It’s funny because when I sold that show to NBC, I even created something called the “Millionaire clause,” which said that I would not produce more than 65 one-hour episodes a year [fearing burnout a la ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire], you cannot repeat it and you can’t air it in the summer. Even with all of that, they would come to us and say, “Please let us rerun an episode.” We’d say, “No,” though I can remember one time saying to a certain network executive, “Look, if you promise not to call me on my vacation, I’ll let you have a rerun.” That’s how useful those types of show are. They can literally prop up a network.
THR: It’s been awhile since a broadcast network launched a new reality franchise. What keeps you up at night?
Goldberg: How are we going to continue to be able to make money? We’re fighting a war of attrition, and we know that every show we do has a finite lifespan. And when a show does die, it’s often at the apex of its moneymaking possibility because it’s been on the air for a long time, the license fees may have increased, and we’ve been able to exploit a lot of the ancillary revenue. So if you’re making 22 episodes a year, and that show goes away, you’re going to have to come up with three or four new shows to replace that one piece of business.
THR: The networks have wised up and are now looking to own more of their unscripted shows. How has this impacted you?
Goldberg: You have to be willing to give up certain things to get others. We want to own and control as much of the back end as we possibly can, and it’s no surprise that they do too. The advantage we have is that I can get on the phone tomorrow with 40 of my colleagues in 40 different countries and be in front of broadcasters a week from now selling that product.