Sony Beefs Up Reality Roster with “Big Bro” Producers

Sony Pictures Television continues to bulk up its unscripted business, signing "Big Brother" executive producers Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan to an overall deal.


The two-year agreement calls on Grodner and Meehan to develop and produce programming for broadcast and cable television, along with Sony’s Internet properties. Grodner and Meehan will work together under their newly formed shingle, tentatively titled Fly on the Wall Entertainment.


Grodner, most recently based at CBS Television Studios, said the deal makes sense for all involved.


"I’ve been looking for a way to grow my business…and they’re looking to grow their (reality division) by taking in some well-known names," Grodner said. "It’s a natural fit."


Sony, always a player in unscripted programming via its syndication division, has been making a major push into primetime alternative programming during the past year. With a mandate to expand from SPT co-presidents Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, alternative chief Holly Jacobs has been steadily beefing up the company’s reality roster.


Now, with the addition of Grodner and Meehan, two of the most established reality TV showrunners are now on the Sony lot, joining gameshow guru Michael Davies, whose Embassy Row is now based at the studio.


"Michael had really terrific things to say about Sony, which was very encouraging," Grodner said. "The synergy between all the departments at Sony seems really amazing and really impressed us. There’s just so much that’s available to us there, including international."


Grodner has known Van Amburg for years. She and Jacobs also go way back, having worked together when Jacobs was at Buena Vista TV and Grodner was launching the studio’s fondly remembered "The Family."


As for the newly formed (and formalized) Grodner-Meehan alliance, Grodner said that, too, just made sense.


"We’ve been partners on ‘Big Brother’ since season five," she said. "We work really well together, and he’s just so creative. I attribute a lot of ‘Big Brother’s’ success to Rich, so it was sort of a no-brainer."


Because she likes to be a hands-on producer, Grodner said it would’ve been all but impossible for her to balance showrunning duties with a growing development slate without having a partner.


"It’s good to have somebody by your side," she said.


One open question is whether Grodner and Meehan will be back on "Big Brother" next summer. Grodner is optimistic, but notes it’s too soon to say.


"’Big Brother’ has to be picked up for another season," she said. Assuming it is, however, "Rich and I would welcome any opportunity to continue with ‘Big Brother’."


Grodner is widely credited with the successful relaunch of CBS’s "Big Brother" franchise, which got off to a shaky start in 2001. But under the direction of Grodner, working with former partner Arnold Shapiro and Endemol USA, "Brother" became a soapy staple of the Eye’s summer schedule. The series is currently showing year-to-year growth, a rarity in the genre.


In addition to "Brother," Grodner executive produces TV Land’s signature reality series "She’s Got the Look" and has several projects in development at various cable networks. Her credits also include Showtime’s "Family Business," ABC’s "The Family," Bravo’s "Blow Out," MTV’s "Flipped" and CBS’s "Rescue 911."


Meehan is also a longtime producer on "Big Brother" and now shares the executive producer credit with Grodner (and Scott Einziger). He’s also worked on "The Amazing Race" and "The Mole."