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Reality Producers Rank Best & Worst Basic Cable Companies To Work With

Deadline logo Deadline 1/17/2017 David Robb
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History and A&E are far and away the best basic cable channels for producers to work with, according to a first-of-its-kind survey of independent reality TV producers. By contrast, says the survey, BET and WE tv are the worst.

The survey, sponsored by the Non-Fiction Producers Association, polled members and non-members alike to determine the rankings of 23 cable outlets in six major areas of concern to producers: executive creativity and dedication to the creative process; the effectiveness of their production management staffs; preferences for pitching; the development process; business affairs process and policies, and production editorial oversight.

History, whose executives ranked first in creativity, was the highest rated channel in three other categories as well – including the effectiveness of its production management staff and tied with A&E in the business affairs category – and placed second in two others.

A&E ranked first in two categories – business affairs and production oversight – and finished second in the other four categories.

“For many months, the Non-Fiction Producers Association has been meeting with individual networks to further the producer-network dialog and suggest ways to improve processes,” said NPA general manager John Ford. “This survey, which is part of that effort, is meant to be a snapshot, from a producer’s point of view, of their current business climate, and we intentionally kept it contained to the six basic areas they say most influence the production experience.”

Investigation Discovery was the only other channel to finish in the top five in all six categories, while Lifetime, the Travel Channel, Animal Planet, and HGTV all finished in the top 10 in each of the categories.

At the other end of the spectrum, WE tv’s executives ranked last in creativity, and the channel ranked last in program development; second to last in two others – including the effectiveness of its production management staff – and third to last in business affairs and the pitching process.

BET, meanwhile, had the lowest score given to any of the cable channels – a 2.9 rating for its business affairs process and policies – and finished dead last in the effectiveness of its production management staff. It also finished second to last in three categories – including the creativity of its executives – and third to last in production editorial oversight.

Oxygen finished last in production editorial oversight, which according to the survey means its team is the least collaborative and professional, and the least understanding of the budget as it relates to editorial changes and requests. Oxygen finished in the bottom five of three other categories, and the bottom ten of all six.

Spike finished in the bottom five of all but one category, and finished sixth from last in program development.

CMT, the Country Music Channel, finished last in the category of who producers most like to pitch to, and in the bottom five of all the other categories, including second to last in business affairs.

Bravo, National Geographic, CNBC, VH1, Food, MTV, CNBC, Syfi, TLC, truTV, and E! finished mostly in the middle of all six categories.

Ford acknowledged that “there are some outside factors that add weight to the survey results, at least anecdotally,” noting that “it’s probably no coincidence that networks that buy the largest volume of programming placed, for the most part, in the top 10 spots. We did tabulate the results to ensure the survey didn’t penalize networks that don’t buy what certain producers sell. Ultimately, this survey is specifically designed to offer information that can improve processes and better the relationships between producers and networks.”

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