EXCLUSIVE: Reliable sources tell me that one of TV’s most high-profile execs Ghen Maynard, EVP for alternative programming and entertainment content for new media at CBS Paramount Network Entertainment Group, is about to undergo a major career change. The CBS reality guru will exit his big deal gig and segue into a production deal. No word on who will replace him. Back when he was the Eye network’s head of alternative series, Maynard convinced boss Les Moonves to take a chance on Survivor, which changed the landscape of unscripted content and product placement on TV, and helped CBS achieve its turnaround. He also had a hand in launching other longest-running reality skeins like The Amazing Race, Big Brother, and America’s Next Top Model (on UPN). But, more recently, Maynard put on the execrable Search For The Next Pussycat Doll and its Girlicious sequel (both on CW) and the hokey Greatest American Dogs this summer. Nowadays CBS reality lacks innovation or creativity, while CW unscripted is just tits and ass. Maynard also gave CBS a black eye when that scandal erupted last fall over the treatment of the children on Kid Nation, the ill-advised series that not only garnered low ratings but which Moonves deeply regretted ever airing because of all the bad publicity. (All Maynard kept saying was that the network hadn’t broken any laws…)
Maynard in his career often found himself going back and forth between scripted and unscripted TV fare. He joined CBS in 1997 as manager of drama development exec, helping to put shows like CSI, and Judging Amy, That’s Life and The District on the air. Then, he became the Eye’s first reality chief as SVP of alternative programming and creative strategies in June 2000.
But in May 2004, newly promoted NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly shocked the industry by hiring Maynard as the No. 2 programming exec to oversee all NBC’s comedy and drama development and unscripted fare as EVP for primetime development. (Interestingly, Reilly and Maynard had known each for 10 years ever since Maynard, a Harvard social psych grad who became a twentysomething in the publishing biz, wrote cold contacted many Hollywood execs, and Reilly responded immediately. At the time it was rare for the Eye’s execs to leave, and Moonves had been Maynard’s mentor. At NBC, he was credited with overseeing then lone hit My Name Is Earl. But after 18 months, Maynard was fired in a shakeup. Moonves offered him a ticket back to CBS in June 2006 with added duties beyond reality to include original programming for online and wireless platforms.