Sony Pictures Television alternative TV chief Holly Jacobs says the studio will take it slow-but-steady in building its primetime reality business — despite the addition of top talent such as Mark Burnett, Michael Davies and Allison Grodner.
"There’s a strategy and a method to our madness," Jacobs told TheWrap. "It’s a cluttered marketplace right now, and it’s really hard to break through. We’re going to go out with things that are smart, things that make sense."
That includes new collaborations with Burnett and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Prods.
"We’re in development with Harpo on a big, primetime network show," Jacobs said, noting the studio’s current partnership with Winfrey on the new syndicated "Dr. Oz."
Jacobs said the studio also has "a big project coming up with Mark Burnett," who’s currently producing ABC’s "Shark Tank" for Sony and ABC.
Add in several projects from Davies ("Who Wants to Be a Millionaire") and the newly signed Grodner/Rich Meehan banner Fly on the Wall, and Sony’s alternative pipeline is as well-stocked as it’s ever been.
And yet, Jacobs said she doesn’t want the studio to turn into a reality factory.
"It’s not a volume business for us. It’s not about being spread too thin," she said. "We’re going to try to be incredibly thoughtful."
Key to Sony’s reality strategy is building an environment where ideas can flow freely between the company’s many divisions.
A one-time feature film project ended up as an acapella singing competition series now set up at NBC, with Joel Gallen producing. Jacobs and her team worked closely with Sony’s film and music divisions to make the show a reality.
The decision to put all international TV under SPT chief Steve Mosko has also changed the dynamic at the studio. Sony has snapped up a number of global production players in recent years, including 2 Way Traffic, and with Mosko now in charge, format ideas are flowing freely across both sides of the ocean.
"It’s a great thing for us to have all these tentacles," Jacobs said. "We have a lot of places to dig."
Sony’s international assets, she noted, "are already bringing us a new wealth of material.
"We’re in a global marketplace. Having so many international ties gives us an incredible strength."
Case in point: Sony’s international holdings makes it much easier for the studio to use the world as a testing ground for new ideas.
For example, the Sony-owned "Dating Game" format is about to be relaunched in France, with a number of unique twists. If the show works — or even if it doesn’t — Sony’s Los Angeles staff may soon get some valuable lessons on how "Dating" could evolve in future Stateside iterations.
The relatively smallness of Sony compared to some other studios is also a boon. Music, TV, film and Internet all cooperate closely on harvesting ideas, she said.
"When you look elsewhere around town, the structure is often different," Jacobs said. "There’s something very fluid about Sony. We have everything in one place."