Business Reality Shows Among Most In Demand

Shark Tank

‘Shark Tank’ is the hottest business reality series on TV. (Photo ABC)

Reality shows offering jobs, small business makeovers — and even cash investments — are now among the most sought after by network programmers.

As singing and dancing shows shed viewers, the niche genre that began a dozen years ago with THE APPRENTICE is suddenly big business.

So big, in fact, that financial news channel CNBC is clamoring to get in the game.

“People are forever fascinated with money,” Jim Ackerman, the network’s SVP of alternative prime time programming told me for a story in today’s New York Post.

“We think more about money than we think about sex.”

Ackerman — who brought CELEBRITY FIT CLUB and BEST WEEK EVER to VH-1 — was hired last summer to develop unscripted content for evening hours, after the stock markets close.

Cheap, self-contained and highly repeatable formats — like “Flip This House,” “Bar Rescue” and “Tabatha Takes Over” — have become cash cows for networks and their producers.

But no business program is hotter right now than ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

In its fourth season, the venture capital show has seen its ratings jump almost every week since moving to Friday nights.

Last summer, Ackerman announced plans for a similar concept called “Venture Men” — which remains “in development.”

Meanwhile, “Shark Tank” producer Clay Newbill has hinted at creating his own spinoff.

“People like real things with real outcomes,” says Ben Silverman, CEO of the production studio Electus and executive producer of NBC’s “Fashion Star.

“We understand what is happening when Mark Cuban gives money to an entrepreneur.”

Silverman — the former programming chief at NBC — says the success of “Shark Tank” prompted his show to move to Fridays when it returns this week.

Season two of “Fashion Star” will feature new host Louise Roe, he says.

And for the first time, viewers will be able to purchase creations from the competing designers while they are watching the show.

“Everyone recognizes the power of TV to build their brand,” Silverman says.

“That’s why dressmakers, budding entrepreneurs and fashion designers all go on to these shows — where they won’t go on “The Bachelor.’”

CNBC will debut its first two unscripted offering on March 5.

CAR CHASERS follows a pair of professional car flippers in Las Vegas while TREASURE DETECTIVES  features art expert Curtis Dowling, who uses science to determine if collectables are real or counterfeit.

“It’s one part CSI, and one part ANTIQUES ROAD SHOW,” Ackerman says. “It’s a fresh take that is well suited for CNBC.”

Of course, not all business-themed shows succeed.

Mark Burnett’s “The Job” — which offered middle management positions to underemployed contestants — was cancelled last month after just two airings on CBS.

What’s your favorite business reality show?  Let us know by sounding off in the comments below!

Sean Daly

Sean Daly

Editor-In-Chief at
Sean Daly is a veteran entertainment journalist.His work has appeared in People, Us Weekly, The Toronto Star and other top publications. He was the west coast TV reporter for The New York Post from 2008 - 2013. Sean is the author of Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America's Got Talent and Teen Mom Confidential: Secrets and Scandals From MTV's Most Controversial Shows.
Sean Daly