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[TV] Ghen Maynard - Reality Guru and One of Kevin Reilleys' Top Lieutenant

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  • madchinaman
    NBC Shuffles Development Team A.J. Frutkin JANUARY 11, 2006 - http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/news/networktv/article_display.jsp? vnu_content_id=1001841897 In
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2006
      NBC Shuffles Development Team
      A.J. Frutkin
      JANUARY 11, 2006 -

      In advance of the upcoming pilot season, NBC officially announced
      several key executive changes to strengthen its development unit.

      Katherine Pope has been named exec vp of NBC Entertainment,
      replacing Ghen Maynard. Pope now is the number two programmer at the
      network under entertainment president Kevin Reilly. Although NBC had
      tried to negotiate for Maynard to remain at the company in another
      position, Maynard reportedly will not stay.

      The management shift comes after an unsuccessful--and somewhat
      confusing-- experiment in which teams of NBC execs were assigned to
      handle development either from sister studio NBC Uni TV Studio or
      from other studios.

      In addition to Pope, Jeff Ingold has been named senior vp and head
      of comedy development at the network, replacing Cheryl Dolins. VP of
      drama development. Michael Thorn also is leaving. No replacement for
      him has been named yet.

      Both Dolins and Thorn oversaw projects developed at NBC Uni TV.
      Meanwhile, comedy vp Jane Greenstein and drama vp Chris Castallo,
      both of whom are staying, oversaw projects from outside sources.

      Overseeing all NBC series development, Pope will report to Reilly.
      Ingold reports to Pope.

      Pope was senior vp of drama series at NBC Uni TV. Ingold was senior
      vp of comedy develoment at NBC Uni TV.


      CBS reality guru Maynard jumps to NBC


      He joined NBC as one of NBC EntertainmentNBC Entertainment
      prexyprexy Kevin ReillyKevin Reilly's top lieutenants, overseeing
      development for both comedy and drama. At NBC U TV, drama VP Laura
      Lancaster is expected to take over for Pope.


      NBC already claimed the hottest new reality show of the year
      with "The Apprentice." Now it has claimed one of reality's biggest
      brains to help get its scripted programming back on track. Ghen
      Maynard, who helped bring "Survivor" to CBS, resigned as reality and
      alternative programming head to become NBC's executive vice
      president of primetime development. He'll help the network, which
      hasn't launched a successful new comedy since "Scrubs," with comedy
      and drama development, offering an assist to new NBC Entertainment
      president Kevin Reilly. Reilly had held a similar position before
      his promotion this week. Maynard began his career in drama at CBS,
      but switched to unscripted series four years ago.


      Inside Move: NBC primetime exec flies the coop
      Maynard departs Peacock post

      NBC exec VP of primetime development Ghen Maynard is departing his
      post at the network. Insiders said Maynard, who jumped from CBS in
      May 2004, is negotiating his next move and more details may be known
      this week.

      Maynard's replacement is expected to be Katherine Pope, currently
      senior VP of drama development at NBC Universal TV Studio.

      The Maynard move is believed to be part of a larger structural
      adjustment at the PeacockPeacock. Net is said to be in the process
      of dropping its system of dividing development execs into teams
      covering NBC Universal TV Studio product vs. teams handling fare
      from outside studios. Such a move would be hailed around town by
      agents and execs who said the "team" system -- which was put in
      place last summer -- promoted unnecessary internal competition and
      led to some confusion over who to contact first.

      In conjunction with the shift away from the team system, insiders
      said Cheryl DolinsCheryl Dolins, the net's senior VP of comedy, will

      Maynard couldn't be reached for comment, while the net declined to
      discuss the changes. An NBC spokeswoman would only say that Maynard
      was "a valued person here, and an important member of this team."

      Insiders said Maynard may have been offered the NBC reality job but
      turned it down. Maynard headed reality at CBS and sib UPNUPN but
      moved to NBC in order to return to his scripted roots.

      At CBS, Maynard launched the net's alternative programming
      department from scratch after bringing megahit "Survivor" to the
      net. His other successes included "The Amazing Race," "Big Brother"
      and "America's Next Top Model."

      He joined NBC as one of NBC EntertainmentNBC Entertainment
      prexyprexy Kevin ReillyKevin Reilly's top lieutenants, overseeing
      development for both comedy and drama. At NBC U TV, drama VP Laura
      Lancaster is expected to take over for Pope.


      Reality Television

      Henry Jenkins, MIT
      Stacey Lynn Koerner, Initiative Media
      Ghen Maynard, CBS alternative programming
      Moderator: David Marshall, Northeastern University


      DAVID MARSHALL, moderator, set the mood by showing some clips from
      recent episodes of Survivor: the Amazon and American Idol. He then
      introduced Ghen Maynard.

      GHEN MAYNARD began by describing what he looks for in new
      programming. One difference between cable and broadcast networks is
      that broadcast networks have to appeal to a broad range of people. A
      mistake some networks made in the recent past was to target younger
      demographics. When CBS heavily promoted Central Park West to their
      older audience, it was a huge disaster.

      Appealing to a broader audience takes time to be successful.
      Survivor is a good example of a show that can appeal to a broad
      audience, because the cast includes a range of individuals who
      appeal to many segments of the audience. Additionally, almost
      everyone can relate to the themes of rejection and abandonment,
      which are at the core of the program.

      Another thing Maynard looks for the promotional possibilities of a
      show's format. Before it was even produced, Survivor received more
      press attention than any CBS program in history.

      The structure of Survivor is also carefully designed for maximum
      drama. Every act break is either an unanswered question, a moment of
      joy, or a moment of conflict. The program relies on traditional
      dramatic strategies. The show could have taken a more documentary
      approach, but it is essentially a drama.

      Reality programming has actually been around for a long time. Shows
      like COPS and America's Most Wanted are clear ancestors of today's
      reality series. The main difference now is that today's programs
      place ordinary people in extraordinary situations; they are like
      social psychology experiments played for drama.

      Maynard receives pitches for 20 to 25 shows per week. Most pitches
      are tasteless, and many are even unethical. The Amazing Race is a
      favorite project of his because its format was developed originally
      by CBS. Logistically, it is more challenging to produce than
      Survivor because the producers are also racing with the teams.


      QUESTION: On The Amazing Race, some contestants are downright rude
      to the citizens of countries in which the race takes place. Is this
      an ethical problem?

      MAYNARD: We make no apologies for putting villains in the show. When
      we go to other countries, we employ locals, so it's good for their
      publicity and business. Also, many of us may think that in such a
      situation, we wouldn't be so insensitive, but you'd be surprised.
      Many people whom we cast act in surprising ways. The show is really
      about the effects of stressful situations on relationships.

      QUESTION: Does that make The Amazing Race hard to sell to other

      MAYNARD: No, it is actually a bigger success in many foreign
      countries. Singapore loves the show, and it performs very well in
      other Asian countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

      STACY LYNN KOERNER began by pointing out that technology does not
      always have the impact we anticipate. One example of this involves
      the way people use Personal Video Recorders. Only 1.5-2% of homes in
      the U.S. currently own PVR's. Forty-three percent of homes without
      PVR's are skipping through commercials in some way. Fifty-nine
      percent of homes with PVRs are fast-forwarding through commercials.

      This means that only about one percent of commercials are actually
      being skipped through PVR technology. Most PVR deployment will be
      through cable systems that have no incentive to let customers skip
      commercials entirely. In fact, a popular use of PVRs is the way
      children are saving ads of the products they want to play them back
      for parents.

      Reality TV fits in into this context. Many forget that television
      began with advertisers as programmers. Reality programming is also a
      way for us to address newer issues such as audience fragmentation
      and escalating program costs. Fragmentation makes it harder for
      advertisers to appeal to a broad audience, so they are looking
      towards product placement, and interactive viewing and purchasing.
      Reality TV allows us to understand at a basic level how viewers want
      to communicate with their television set, as well as the convergence
      of behavior with the Internet.

      Reality programming is like special event programming, because more
      promotion is involved. Reality TV is also "TiVo-proof," because a
      viewer must know what happens in real time in order to engage in
      discussion the next day. This also promotes group viewing.


      QUESTION: What are the economic changes related to reality TV?

      MAYNARD: The shows cost less than most scripted dramas, but not
      necessarily. As a show becomes popular, more money is spent on
      getting talent. Part of the attraction is that it's supposed to be
      less expensive. However, you make a lot more money on successful
      shows like ER in terms of back-end sources, such as merchandising.

      KOERNER: With reality TV, you can't really repeat episodes either,
      so you don't have any profits from syndication.

      CHARLES FERRIS: Will the fear of zapping through commercials lead
      advertisers to greater integration of commercials into the program
      content itself?

      KOERNER: There has been interest in that integration, but
      advertisers are aware that viewers don't always like this, and there
      is a fear to push this. I think we'll see more advertisers becoming
      producers of content themselves, rather than bring product placement
      elements to existing shows.

      HENRY JENKINS introduced himself as a Survivor fan. His central
      thesis is that reality TV is the "killer app" of the age of media
      convergence. For him, convergence is both grassroots and corporate

      Jenkins would emphasize the audience side of reality TV and the
      notion of multi-platform content. Many reality shows are also
      computer-based programs. The classic example is Big Brother, which
      was available online 24 hours a day. The Internet becomes a second
      revenue stream for content. Cross-promotion with morning and late-
      night talk shows also works well for reality shows. They are also
      good testing grounds for product placement.

      There is a strong notion of participation. So far, the best example
      of consumer interaction with network television is reality TV. First
      of all, the actual participants in the show inhabit a world with
      access to personal media; they film their own application tapes and
      send them in. There is a blurring of the line between fan and
      participant. Meanwhile, on American Idol, the way viewers phone in
      the results is an example of structured interactivity.

      However, some audience participation does not please producers. For
      example, what happens when American Idol polls go against the
      judges' wishes? The spoiler community has done investigative work on
      reality TV contestants and results. Fans also like to discuss
      ethical issues. Scandalous revelations from websites like "The
      Smoking Gun" have affected outcomes on American Idol.

      Jenkins believes that viewer participation in reality programming
      will expand. He has interviewed a man who wrote two full seasons of
      Survivor fan fiction. Meanwhile, on episodes of Big Brother,
      outsiders have tried to get their political messages into the live
      feed, or tried to communicate to the members of the cast in order to
      influence player dynamics. These are all examples of audiences
      exploiting the media environment to interact programs. Reality TV
      seems especially open to such interventions.


      QUESTION: We journalists used to think we were reality TV. What does
      this say for the future of news?

      JENKINS: Look at plummeting approval rates surrounding the two Gulf
      Wars. There's one representation of that in the news, and another
      grassroots representation that shows greater support for antiwar
      sentiment. I think the response to reality TV teaches modes of
      engaging critically with television that may slide into the activism
      around the Iraq war.

      MAYNARD: Producing reality TV makes me more conscious of what goes
      on in news. It's important to me that everything you see on my shows
      has integrity. Unlike some interview shows, we don't piece together
      unrelated clips to add drama. We hold to a higher standard than the
      news, in that regard.

      QUESTION: To what degree are reality shows actually scripted?

      MAYNARD: Most reality shows don't do that. The only time something
      is scripted is what a host says. In an interview, we might ask if
      people can say things again, if it's not clear what they're talking

      JENKINS: The real structure comes in the storytelling and editing. A
      lot of dramaturgy goes into that.

      QUESTION: To what extent is CBS concerned about fans' attempts to
      spoil the endings? What measures do you take to prevent that?

      MAYNARD: I love that fans want to do that; it's good for us. It also
      poses challenges. We can go to huge extremes. We have a no-fly zone
      over the area on Survivor. After the first season of Survivor, not
      even the crew knows the winner until the last episode when it airs,
      since we shoot the final vote without people in the control booth.

      QUESTION: I found myself losing interest in the clips, partly
      because I know the format. Yes it's dramatic and like a soap opera,
      but what is the extent to which it really is spontaneous? What is
      the editing you do about? I'm wondering whether this is like
      dramatic fiction at all.

      MAYNARD: I think television is about whether you identify with the
      people on screen. For this season's Survivor, the program is skewed
      to younger viewers. Last season, most of the last contestants were
      over 40. In terms of the editing, there's too much footage to show
      everything, but what you are seeing is still what happened, and we
      don't change the meaning of things.

      KOERNER: We've started to research what people think about reality
      TV. Towards the beginning, a lot of people told us they liked it
      because it's unexpected, and they don't know how they are going to
      turn out. But now they are getting familiar with the conventions of
      reality TV, as much as they are familiar with those of TV dramas or

      JENKINS: I want to tackle your question from an aesthetic
      perspective. Yes, there are differences between reality TV and
      melodrama. However, there is an intense projection of character.
      Reality TV relies on type casting, but I think real people have more
      layers and nuances than the simplified dramatic characters we are
      used to seeing on TV.

      At the same time, reality TV contains a traditional dramatic device:
      the soliloquy. The inserted interview segments are like the
      soliloquies in Elizabethan drama. This device is the dramatic
      linchpin of reality TV where people spill their guts. I wish we had
      soliloquies on The West Wing.

      QUESTION: I'm interested in self-reflexivity in reality TV. People
      weren't aware of what the first Survivor would look like, and
      perhaps that's part of the reason it worked so well. I find as a
      viewer that some of the interesting contestants are the ones who are
      the most die-hard fans - they've played out strategies in their
      minds. Is that a help or a hindrance?

      MAYNARD: It's both. After the first season, the innocence is lost.
      The new overt alliances make for more complex plotting. Finding more
      genuine people is harder in casting, but the savviness of
      contestants can be more interesting for viewers.

      QUESTION: When you hear pitches for reality programs, how much
      emphasis do you place on free media promotion?

      MAYNARD: We're always looking for water cooler talk. Press is a huge
      thing. If I go "wow," that's all I need. It's more of a gut
      reaction; I don't really think about how to generate free publicity.

      QUESTION: The notion of advertisers producing content petrifies me.
      Does it bother you that advertisers may be increasing their
      increasing control of programs?

      KOERNER: One example of an advertising group creating content is the
      Family Friendly Forum, who created the Gilmore Girls, a drama for
      families that uses traditional commercials. It's not always bad, it
      can be done well.

      JENKINS: I'm talking about what happens on TV being only one aspect
      of this culture of convergence. Phenomenal things can be done in
      activism and viewer power. The structured participation of audiences
      is having a major impact on the content of highly rated shows like
      American Idol.

      QUESTION: Tech Review recently advertised the future of TV as
      everything-on-demand. Are you looking for radical ways in which TV
      will be financed in the future?

      KOERNER: Yes, we actively consider the on-demand future. A piece of
      content could be developed as a long form commercial that could be
      accessed on demand.


      The Ghen Maynard Show

      Here is an article in the Globe about how CBS is using the `Beverly
      Hillbillies' premise for a reality t.v. series.

      It brings that prophetic gem Real Life to mind.

      At the end of the shows run, the happy-go-lucky-poor-folk (they plan
      on finding the real-life Roseanne family) will be exiled from the
      mansion and sent back to the projects they sprang from. They'll do
      so good-naturedly, with a degree of apparently useless celebrity
      status in tow. You almost have to wonder if a show like this can end
      well. Maybe it will—though it doesn't sound like anyone at CBS is
      thinking about it too much. Their Head of Alternative Programming,
      Ghen Maynard, excitedly pitches it to Daily Variety: "Imagine the
      episode where they have to interview maids!"


      Im thinking of an outline for "The Ghen Maynard Show". On this show,
      Mr. Maynard and his family maintain the Hillbillies native residence
      and hold their low-income jobs while they're out of town. Imagine
      Maynards horror when he has to walk home through a park he's never
      been through, after completing his first ever late-shift! The look
      on his childs face when it's revealed there is no money to fumigate!
      52 weeks of Kraft Dinner!

      The season finale: After a year of this fish-out-of-water high
      comedy, the nation can tune in to see if Maynard's developed a heart.


      NBC in restructuring mode for series development
      Indiantelevision.com Team
      (16 March 2005 2:00 pm)

      MUMBAI: Faced with a decline in ratings, US broadcaster NBC has
      decided to take the bull by the horns. NBC Entertainment has
      announced a major re-structuring that will allow creative talent
      more access points into the network and closer working relationships
      with the development teams.

      NBC has split the comedy and drama departments into two separate
      teams which will concentrate on ideas from NBC Universal Television

      There will be another dedicated team to cultivate and accept
      external projects from outside studios.

      In addition, NBC will open a New York programme development office
      that will develop all genres sourcing local talent. All the
      development executives will report to NBC Entertainment executive VP
      of series development Ghen Maynard.

      "A challenge of the network television system is that its a high
      volume game, with too many executives each covering too many
      projects. With the West Coast realignment, it will thin out the
      volume on any one executive's plate to let them be more pro-active
      and work more closely with creative talent. It also allows for more
      access points for freeball projects to get into the network system.
      Additionally this will enable us to get closer to our goal of
      maintaining original programming on the air year-round," says Maynard

      Veteran network executive Cheryl Dolins is expected to remain as
      senior vice president, comedy development, after shepherding the
      highly anticipated new comedy The Office and delivering a promising
      comedy development slate for 2005-06.

      Dolins will oversee comedy projects from NBC Universal Television
      Studio. Gina Girolamo also continues as vice president, comedy
      development, reporting to Dolins.

      The second comedy unit for outside studios will be led by newly
      hired Jane Greenstein. She previous served as Fox director, comedy
      development. She now becomes NBC Entertainment VP, comedy
      development. Terence Carter, moving over from Tonic Films, joins the
      network as director, comedy development, and will report to

      Michael Thorn will lead the drama development team overseeing
      projects from NBC Universal Television Studio that will include an
      executive to be named later. The second drama unit for outside
      studios will be headed by Chris Castallo (coming from Tollin-Robbins
      Productions), newly hired to serve as vice president, drama
      development. He will be joined by Justin Levy, who moves over from
      comedy development to become manager, drama development.



      TV settings also offer writers an appealing set of stock characters:
      the bimbo, the self-important star, the morally bankrupt producer.
      But most executives believe that any successful script should steer
      clear of caricatures. "It's important to try and create a world that
      feels fresh," said Ghen Maynard, executive vp of prime-time
      development at NBC Entertainment. Besides, he added, "The workplace
      has evolved, so that any good writer should look at the dynamics
      that exist today, and mine new comedy from it."
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