Is Reality TV Crowdfunding the Future of the Industry?

Reality TV CrowdfundingAn emerging trend: Reality TV crowdfunding

Reality television programs developed by large production companies have saturated the TV lineup. However, the internet and crowdfunding services have opened new doors for unscripted hopefuls – reality tv crowdfunding could be the next big thing for the craze.

Potential reality TV stars striking out on their own 

J.R. Smith, a basketball player whose exploits seem ready-made for TV, recently decided to crowdfund a reality program based on his life. However, the effort didn’t last long and the funding campaign is now suspended. The shooting guard didn’t get very close to his goal of $450,000. While funding was still open, however, Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter, even tweeted his support for Smith’s effort. 

His efforts to get “Team Swish” off the ground are a sign of the times – even reality TV can be DIY with crowdsourced backing and the internet. Smith’s proposed show isn’t the first of its kind, though. 

“The Bedford Stop” is an example of another DIY reality program. It was created in 2014, according to the reality show’s Facebook page. Described as “a reality show about Brooklyn girls avoiding reality.” The low-budget program follows the lives of a few recent college graduates in the New York City borough. The episodes are hosted by YouTube and Vimeo. Each website allows users to post videos for free. Though the program did not receive great reviews – FREEwilliamsburg noted the show “has made its way to YouTube for all of your hate watching needs” – it is still yet another illustration of reality tv crowdfunding.

Reality tv crowdfunding questions to consider 

With a camera, an interesting idea and access to the internet, anyone can make a TV show. However, as a low-budget reality TV show gains a following, questions may emerge about how to maintain the growing operation. For example, if the time comes to draw up contracts, what will they look like?

Frankly, that depends on how much control the creators hope to have over their stars, if, that is, they’re not the same people. Most reality TV contracts are quite thorough and require participants to sign over rights to their image, forgo starring on competitors’ programs and give editors the freedom to dramatize situations. However, all of these restrictions may not be necessary if the show is DIY and not controlled by a larger production company. Consider reviewing contracts from established unscripted programs to learn more about what sort of language these documents should contain.  

In addition, research local regulations that pertain to filming. Are drones allowed in the area, and if so what are the guidelines? Are permits necessary to set up in certain locations? These concerns should be addressed before shooting starts.

If you’re considering reality tv crowdfunding to produce show, contact an experienced entertainment law attorney to learn more about this process. 

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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