EXCLUSIVE: Starz has signed an exploratory deal with Ben Silvrman’s Electus to search together for premium network-suited unscripted programming that would compliment Starz’s original programing slate.
Electus sought the partnership with Starz after taking a look at the TV landscape and seeing a void in the unscripted space on premium cable, Electus CEO Chris Grant said. So far, reality TV’s presence on premium cable has been limited to sports documentaries (HBO’s 24/7 and Hard Knocks, Showtime’s The Franchise) and erotic fare (HBO’s Real Sex). That is not a direction Electus and Starz want to follow. “We are looking for tentpole ideas with strong dynamic characters, a little bit of danger and unprecedented access; we want to tell stories that couldn’t be told elsewhere,” Grant said, adding that he and Electus’ development team are hoping to hear from reality producers who have come up with ideas or have encountered great personalities which they couldn’t turn into series because of the constrains of ad-supported TV.
The pact with Starz came out of Electus’ close relationship with the pay cable network where it is developing several projects, one of them, drama Marco Polo, already greenlighted to series. The network and Electus are looking to emulate the introduction of original programming to pay cable networks’ slates, something Starz’s CEO Chris Albrecht has strong background in through his stints at HBO and Starz. “There was time when they were not doing original programming on premium cable either, and Chris was at the forefront of that change with big, tentpole series like The Sopranos and Sex And The City,” Grant said. “When you see how prominent reality programming is on broadcast and basic cable networks, there is no reason why unscripted stories can’t be told on premium cable too.”