Influencers in Unscripted TV Are ‘New Voices’ INE Entertainment Bosses Seek: ‘There Are Changes Afoot’

With over 15 years of experience producing reality TV, INE Entertainment comanaging partners Mark Koops and Eric Day have learned to start looking beyond the Hollywood bubble for promising talent.

“We’re out there listening [and] consuming content … and you start to recognize that there are changes afoot. There are new voices that want to see themselves on screen and talk about their lived experiences in different ways,” Day told TheWrap for this week’s Office With a View. “When you’re listening to that, your filter then is authentic people that have a passion for doing something, and there’s a marketplace for that in the television landscape.”

After working with unscripted personalities like Jillian Michaels on “The Biggest Loser” and Gordon Ramsay on “MasterChef,” recognizing potential in young influencers isn’t too far of a stretch for the duo, whose recent slate includes Amazon Kids+’s “Surprise & Seek,” which features child influencers including Jonathan Le, Ava Foley, and Boss Baby Brody, as well as Roku series, “Carpe DM With Juanpa,” which stars Mexican internet personality Juanpa Zurita.

“We’re always focused on [differentiating ourselves by] looking for new voices and embracing them and bringing them to traditional television,” Koops said.

As the unscripted genre has expanded since INE Entertainment launched in 2011, Koops and Day noted remaining flexible amid the constantly shifting entertainment industry is just as key to staying competitive as partnering up with the right talent.

“People say, ‘social media talent doesn’t work in traditional linear — there’s never been a track record of success,’ [and] I’m like, ‘yes, or no.’ It’s finding the right project and the right lens for them,” Koops said, with Day noting once the production company identifies talent they would like to work with they “double down” to build a project around them.

As INE Entertainment sets its gaze on bringing in new talent into the reality fold, the company has found themselves frequently working with streamers, as Koops assesses some linear networks have become “safe in their programming choices.” He expressed that when reality TV first began gaining mainstream traction, networks were “always giving fresh voices behind the camera, as well as in front of the camera, opportunities … They’ve moved away from that.”

“When you see success, it comes through innovation, and often that’s by giving new voices and new companies an opportunity,” he continued. “I understand that’s risky … but would urge all of the buyers out there … come to it with a new lens.”

Below, Koops and Day break down how the emergence of streamers has shifted the unscripted landscape and share their advice for young people developing their careers in entertainment.

How has streaming changed the unscripted TV game?
Eric Day: There’s been definitely a shift towards streaming, and you can’t say that without recognizing the consolidation. What was linear is now streaming, and there are certain players that are insulated from this, namely, one giant streamer, the rest of them all have to figure out what their linear and/or ad-supported businesses are going to be. That’s going to have a ripple effect through the supply chain of lower cost programming that’s right-sized against the advertising revenue.

How do you anticipate continuing shifts in streaming will impact the unscripted genre?
ED: We will have innovated a ton in production values and how we produce shows and [approach] storytelling, but advertisers love hits — that is, without question, a true thing. But they also love stability, and there has not been any stability in the ad-supported television market, from a story perspective, and platforms are going to need to provide that stability. It’s going to shake out in 12 different ways across the five different lasting platforms.

Mark Koops: We need to be better partners as producers, at times, to networks — 100%. But I also think [networks should] trust us that our interests are aligned to deliver a great show that resonates with audiences and recognize that we’re fighting for the same goal.

What advice do you have for young people entering the entertainment industry?
MK: Be relentless, be optimistic. You never know where the next great opportunities [are going to] come from, so be open to exploring all aspects of the business as you start because you never know where you make that next great relationship — the person who might become your writing partner or your producing partner. It’s recognizing that it is a competitive industry, and you’re going to get told “no.” It doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough, it means it’s maybe not the right day or the right time.

ED: This business is all about learning and putting in the time and it’s about on-the-job learning. My advice would be become indispensable to somebody who’s doing what you want to do.

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