EXCLUSIVE: As part of its push in the alternative programming arena, Lionsgate Television has signed a two-year overall deal with reality producer and development executive Eli Frankel, who most recently served as SVP of development for Magical Elves, the production company behind Project Runway and Top Chef.
Lionsgate TV Group president Kevin Beggs said the company so far had taken a very opportunistic approach to unscriped programming with occasional projects. “It has not been a concerted, strategic effort the way you think of our scripted business,” he said. “But reality television has matured into such a strong business that we wanted to change that.” Instead of hiring a traditional unscripted executive, Beggs said they opted for bringing in a producer-developer who is a self-starter and self-sufficient and went with Frankel, whose experience ranges from development executive to executive producer to editor of reality series. Beggs and Frankel first met on the Lionsgate/Craig Piligian-produced Tommy Hilfiger fashion reality series for CBS The Cut, which Frankel co-executive produced during his tenure at Piligian’s Pilgrim Films & Television. Frankel has been off to a fast start since joining Lionsgate a month ago. “In a month we have had probably more activity than we had for 10 years at Lionsgate,” Beggs said. Lionsgate’s unscripted slate reflects the company’s mandate on the scripted side to “not accept any limitations,” Frankel said. “We have male- and female-skewing shows for broadcast and cable.” The list includes docu soaps, game shows, series in the food, survivalist, Hollywood, skincare and alternative lifestyle space.
Frankel, who began his TV career as an editor, served as lead editor for the first season of CBS’ The Amazing Race before joining CBS as director of alternative series development, helping oversee CBS’ and UPN’s alternative series, including Big Brother, Star Search, Simon Cowell’s Cupid, and Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model. He then spent four years as SVP for Pilgrim, where he created, developed and sold a number of shows, including The Cut, Syfy’s Ghosthunters, Spike’s Ultimate Fighter, Discovery and Planet Green’s Greensburg, TLC’s Master of Dance and WE’s My Fair Wedding, and served as showrunner for several series, including American Chopper. At Magical Elves, Frankel developed and sold such projects as Bravo’s Kell on Earth, NBC’s America’s Next Great Restaurant and WE’s Braxton Family Values.