“Shark Tank is America’s most successful venture capital company that’s ever existed,” Shark Tank and executive producer Kevin O’Leary said during a panel at Deadline’s Contenders Television: The Nominees virtual event.
With O’Leary, fellow EPs/Sharks Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John joined Deadline senior editor/chief TV critic Dominic Patten to chat about changes coming to Season 12 of the ABC staple and what’s keeping the investors fresh and invigorated.
O’Leary reflected on why the long-running reality series, which picked up a pair of Emmy nominations last month — for Structured Reality Program and O’Leary, Corcoran, John, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec as hosts — has become so successful.
“In the beginning, I don’t think Sony, ABC or MGM could have ever anticipated what this platform has become,” O’Leary said. “It’s an entertaining show, but it creates jobs in America. We grow franchises based on this platform… we put money into the hands of young entrepreneurs that use the platform that no venture capital company can ever do.”
Deadline reported last month that Shark Tank restarted filming in Las Vegas under new COVID-19 guidelines – one of the few shows to currently be in production. Corcoran noticed that contestant’s demeanors have hardened in these economically straining times.
“The people we’re seeing now are remarkably different. They have more at stake,” she said. “They’re mostly the people who have the least amount of hope and feel their situation is never going to change and that’s what’s so very sad about it. When you’re not born into the right family, you don’t get a shot. Nobody listens to your idea, nobody’s going to hand you anything.”
She added that she was reminded of her own humble beginnings when she steps on set.
“Every day I sit on that Shark Tank set, I sit there not as who I am now with a great life I lived, but sit there [as a 23 year old] — as a waitress with nobody giving me a break. I thought that was the end of my life. I was going to be a good waitress — the best waitress — until somebody came in and loaned me $1000. I never sit in that seat where I don’t see that person, look at them and say they’re me. That’s really what turns us all on. We go home fulfilled. They can pay us nothing and we would all show up for work.”
The contestants on Shark Tank range from kids to retirees, but the Sharks have found that some of the greatest business lessons come from their youngest contestants. Illustrating the dire economic backdrop of how children these days grow up, FUBU founder John characterizes their newfound hustler mentality and how he learns from them.
“A lot of these kids who are now 15 or 20, they saw their parents lose their homes to bad banking and they said I’m no longer gonna do that. I’m gonna empower myself, and I’m gonna empower my parents. …They wanna be in charge in their own destiny and they, in return, are reverse mentoring us. I’m learning from them and I love taking that ride with them,” John said.
The business reality series, which is based on a Japanese format, is produced by MGM Television in association with Sony Pictures Television and is exec produced by Mark Burnett, Clay Newbill, Yun Lingner, Max Swedlow and Phil Gurin, Brandon Wallace, Cuban, Corcoran, Greiner, Herjavec, John and O’Leary.
Check out the video above, and click here to watch all of Sunday’s Contenders TV panels.