Turning a pitch into a Survivor

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A multi-billion dollar TV almost didn’t happen. A television producer was eventually able to find one person who understood his vision to reinvent television and was persistent enough with his idea to help an old industry grasp a new concept.

British producer Mark Burnett had an idea for a new reality TV show but needed support from network gatekeepers to make his vision a reality. In the late 90s Burnett went all over Hollywood pitching the show to whoever would listen, including the cable networks. No one was interested and the idea of reality television had not taken off.

Mark Burnett’s business manager doesn’t give up and placed a call to the executive assistant of Ghen Maynard, a lower ranked executive at CBS who wants out of his cubicle. Ghen happened to major in social psychology at Harvard and understands the appeal of reality TV to the masses. He gets excited about Burnett’s idea and pitches it to CEO Les Moonves. Moonves supposedly calls the “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

After a little more persistence Les Moonves reconsiders. Survivor is born, and makes CBS millions of dollars and reinvents the reality TV industry.

Story based on Bill Carter’s book, Desperate Networks.