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True Originals

13/02/2018

Why This MattersTruly Original's co-CEOs have successfully melded a pair of reality TV producers into a prolific, successful powerhouse.

When Endemol Shine North America merged its production companies True Entertainment and Original Media in January of 2017, the hope was that the new entity would become a powerhouse that would dominate the reality programming space with high-quality, highly viewed original content spread across a multitude of distributors.

Fast-forward a little more than a year later and the new entity, Truly Original, has checked off all of those boxes. New York-based Truly Original, led by co-CEOs and veteran producers Glenda Hersh and Steven Weinstock - who founded True Entertainment in 2000 and sold it to ESNA in 2003 before becoming co-CEOs of both True and ESNA's Original Media in 2015 - have successfully melded the best of the two companies to offer arguably the most robust, diverse and successful lineup of unscripted cable shows in the industry today.

From Bravo's long-running series The Housewives of Atlanta to History's signature series Swamp People, Paramount Network's distinctive Ink Master or Investigation Discovery's Vanity Fair Confidential, Hersh and Weinstock have left an indelible mark on the reality genre.

Read More: Ink Master' Host Says Show Strikes Right Chords | American Values, Reflected in Swamp People' | Atlanta's Diversity Keeps This Housewives' Series Real

Truly Original is truly amazing, is how Connie Orlando, executive vice president and head of programming for BET, which last month launched Truly Original's unscripted series BET's Mancave, put it. My creative executives love working with them, and the meetings I have had with them have been really easy. They know what they're doing, and that's always refreshing.

Hersh and Weinstock's success, dedication and hard work as partners - they profess to brainstorm on their shows over lunch virtually every day - has earned the duo honors as Broadcasting & Cable's Producers of the Year for 2018.

The two co-CEOs discussed the company's content development strategy as well as how Truly Original plans to remain viable and successful in a fast-changing, crowded entertainment marketplace.

When Truly Original was created, did you believe that the merger of True Entertainment and Original Media would be so successful?

Steven Weinstock: At the time of the merger, our company, True Entertainment, had been incredibly successful in terms of not just the amount of shows we sold but the way it was managed. Our reputation had garnered lots of praise in the industry and, as a result, Enedmol thought it might make sense to have Glenda and I run both companies.

Glenda Hersh: It really made sense, because while the companies were different, they were very complementary. True Entertainment tended to have focus on more female skewing programming, and Original tended to be more male in its skew with some female. By bringing them together we brought the brains, the minds, the creativity of each company with great teams together and it made actually one plus one equal four.

What type of content are you now looking to create for Truly Original on the development front?

GH: We look for shows that are new and different. We try to develop shows that you haven't seen before - that are going to get viewers excited and that feature new formats, different talent and more exciting ways to tell those stories. We are always looking to reinvent the form. Something that we have done over the last 25 years is come up with new ways to tell unscripted stories and new ways to make it feel like scripted, as well as new ways to evolve the stories and to grow formats. We're looking to not be derivative; we're looking to find things that are fresh. But it's really hard. [Laughter.] A lot has been done already, But we feel like one of our big successes is we've managed to come up with shows that feel new.

SW: I also think that we are at our heart great storytellers, and we apply it to a lot of different kinds of genres. We have never been a company that has excelled at just one thing, whether it's a glossy competition shows or ensemble docusoaps or male alligator hunting. We have always prided ourselves on the fact that we love telling stories and we're really good at it. We have been able to take that talent and use it to really create compelling television for a lot of different networks.

Bravo is one network thats benefited from Truly Original shows, including two shows from the Real Housewives franchise - Real Housewives of Atlanta and Real Housewives of Potomac. What did you see in that franchise that made it an option for your company?

SW: Initially, Glenda and I had gone into Bravo and they already had I believe Orange County and New York [versions] in production, and they asked us if had we any thoughts about what else we would do. Really off the top of our heads we said, How about some diversity because you don't have that?' And they said, Oh that's interesting where would you go?' And again off the top of our heads we said Atlanta, because it's a place where there's a real African-American affluent population. That was 10 years ago.

We are now in our 10th season and it is still, by a significant amount, the No. 1 show on Bravo and, on Sunday nights, the No. 1 show on cable. If somebody would've said to us then that 10 years later would you still be doing Real Housewives of Atlanta, we'd sit there and say no, I think you must be crazy.' And yet here we are.

Shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta and Potomac, as well as many of Truly Originals shows, skew toward female audiences. What has been the advantage of reaching that audience in terms of the success of your shows?

GH: I t
LINK: http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/programming/true-originals/17170...
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