Netflix to Spend Tons of Money Getting in on the Reality TV Game

Image via Bravo
Image via Bravo

Netflix has already spent a ridiculous amount of money on original dramas, standup specials, documentaries and films (including a Will Smith fantasy thriller purchased for $90 million), and now they’re moving into reality TV.


In its latest issue, The Hollywood Reporter outlines the company’s plan to add more reality TV content to its slate, in the form of unscripted dramas, competition shows and basically anything that would make Bravo execs quiver. There are a number of reasons reality TV producers might rush to Netflix instead of traditional networks.

Besides money, the piece notes, “the biggest allure is Netflix’s focus on straight-to-series orders, bypassing what has increasingly led to a challenging development process elsewhere.” In other words, the development process would be faster, with no green-lighting delays, which makes TV producers happy.

“The competition should be scared out of their minds,” David Lyle, described as a “reality TV vet,” tells THR. “These guys are monsters — they’re coming in to play and play hard.” (Lyle then retreated into his lair.) Still:

Of course, there are challenges, too. Rivals insist pilots are fruitful and making must-see reality is harder than it looks, pointing to cable networks like AMC that tried and failed to enter the space. And representatives worry about everything from the all-at-once rollout (will someone watch 10 episodes of a competition series if the finale is available right away?) to the uncertainty around backends, a frequent complaint on the scripted side as well.

Could a Netflix competition series roll out the first initial episodes and just save the finale for a later date? The new guy running the company’s unscripted initiative, Brandon Riegg, says Netflix is looking for a broad range of content. “It’s about the diversity. We’d love to get a couple shows in some key genres that are smaller cable-size swings, a few in the middle range and then a couple of really big swings,” he says, speaking in weird TV language.

Netflix clearly has a good chance of succeeding in this space. As a reality TV connoisseur, I’m curious how the competition could change things for Bravo and Vh1, who already have the reality market on lock.

Culture Editor, Jezebel



Maybe it’s just because I’m not a reality show viewer to begin with, but I don’t like this idea. I’m not going to trash the genre just because it’s not my cup of tea, but Netflix style streaming (where the full series is released at once) seems like a weird medium for reality TV. Do people really binge watch these kind of shows? I can see how reality shows might be appealing for someone who wants to watch something mindlessly entertaining for an hour a week, but I can’t imagine watching several in a row.