As Entertainment One expands its unscripted TV operations, Tara Long has been upped to exec VP of U.S. alternative programming.
Long’s promotion comes as the division has prospered with series across five cable networks and a slew of projects in development for next season.
During its upfront, BET announced its fourth show with eOne, “About the Business,” which follows a group of friends in the elite world of urban Hollywood. EOne also has “Nellyville,” currently in its freshman season, “It’s A Manns World,” going into its second round later this season, and “The Sheards,” which has also been renewed. Long is as an exec producer on all four shows.
Long, previously senior VP of alternative programming, launched eOne’s alternative division in 2012, and has been with the company for five years. During her tenure, seven projects have gone straight to series. The list includes Science Channel’s upcoming gameshow “Race to Escape,” bowing in July.
John Morayniss, CEO of eOne TV, tells Variety that Long’s work has turned the company into a “meaningful player” in the unscripted arena.
“Our strategy out of the gate was to get shows sold and on the air, and more important, stay on the air,” he said. “For us, it was getting a show on the air that was well-executed and well received, production values were high, ratings were high and we got renewals — that’s what we did right out of the gate. Everyone I know has a great unscripted idea, but the idea of execution is as, or more, important.”
Over at WeTV, “Mary Mary,” which follows two sisters who are gospel singers, is a cornerstone show. Its fourth season bowed in March.
“We have some other really high-profile stuff in development with people you wouldn’t think would do a reality show, and it’s because they are fans of ‘Mary Mary.’ It allowed credibility for an artist to allow you to do their show and tell their story,” Long said. Long admits the show is her “baby” as it’s the first one she developed for eOne.
One of Long’s biggest goals is to continue to push into new genres, such as what she calls “man programming,” or rather, high-stakes content targeted toward male-skewing networks. Basketball competition series “Ball Up: Search for the Next” is currently in season three on Fox Sports Net.
The exec is interested in delving further into the reality-competition genre and finding success with a few good pranks. David Spade’s hidden camera comedy show, “Fameless,” was recently picked up at TruTV.
This year, eOne signed a first-look deal with Creature Films, run by producers Mark Ford and Kevin Lopez, whose credits include MTV’s cultural mega-hit “Laguna Beach,” along with Bravo’s “Kandi Factory” and VH1’s “Behind the Music.”
The pact is one of several first-look agreements the company has set as part of the growth push in unscripted. Others include One Media (Fox Sports’ “Ball Up”), Perfect Vision (“Nellyville”) and Axial Entertainment, which is developing projects at TLC and Discovery Science. Producer Kevin Healey is working on a project for CW with eOne.
“We’re allowing our partners to be true partners with us and I’m not telling them what to do,” Long said. “I would never do a first-look deal with someone who wasn’t a physical showrunner or producer who could run their own show. That’s been enticing for a lot of people when they’ve had competitive offers to come to eOne.”
In her new post, Long will continue to oversee the alternative division, with a focus on diversifying the slate and expanding globally.
“We want to look at other markets,” Morayniss said, citing the U.K., Australia and Europe. “The U.S. is the crucial market because it’s such a big market with so many buyers, but we want to really build a global, unscripted business.”