Bunim-Murray Productions, the reality-TV company that helped create the genre with “The Real World” and went on to launch one of its most successful franchises with “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” has set a new executive team. The production company has promoted Jeff Jenkins and Julie Pizzi to co-presidents of entertainment and development. Both execs will continue to report to Bunim-Murray chairman and CEO Gil Goldschein.
The company has also promoted executive producer and showrunner Farnaz Farjam to vice president of current programming and hired producers Erica Ross and Dave Sambuchi as vice presidents of development. The change in structure comes more than one year after company co-founder Jonathan Murray stepped down as the company’s top executive, ceding that role to then-president Goldschein. It also comes during a period of growth for the company, which by the end of 2016 expects to have seen 18 of its shows air across 11 networks.
“This new structure, bifurcating celeb reality and docu under Jeff and formats under Julie, allows us from a volume perspective to develop a lot more within those areas,” said Goldschein. “At the same time, by building out their team with such strong producers like Dave and Erica, and having Farnaz heading current programming — all people who are in-the-field producers — having that sort of knowledge has taken the development to another level.”
Increasing volume year-over-year has been one of Goldschein’s top priorities for Bunim-Murray, which was acquired by France’s Banijay Group in 2010. With the number of buyers of unscripted programming continuing to expand, Goldschein has set a target of selling to at least one new buyer every year — a target he hopes Jenkins and Pizzi will lead the company in reaching.
“Jeff and Julie both grew up at this company,” Golschein said. “They have that Bunim-Murray DNA, which is that it’s all about the product. It’s all about storytelling.”
Pizzi began her career at Bunim-Murray, working on “Road Rules” and “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” for MTV and “Born to Diva” for VH1. She returned to the company in 2015 as exec VP. In the interim, she served as co-president of PB&J Television, which now has a production deal with Bunim-Murray.
In addition to creating formats that work in the U.S. and can travel to Banijay’s outposts abroad, Pizzi is focused on “tapping into different areas that are more unexpected or non-traditional for Bunim-Murray,” Pizzi said. She cited talk and hybrid scripted genres as areas of expansion. “We’ve really come up with a fresh slate.”
Jenkins, who also served previously as exec VP, has spent the bulk of his career at Bunim-Murray, where he has overseen and served as executive producer of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and its spinoff series. Among the shows Jenkins developed set to premiere this year are “Total Bellas,” “Mariah’s World” and “Rob & Chyna” on E! as well as “The Gary Owen Show” on BET.
“I started at Bunim-Murray 15 years ago, and the company was pretty small,” Jenkins said, noting that at the time he joined, the company had only “Real World” and “Road Rules” in its stable. “Over the past 15 years its just grown and expanded. We need to keep that going, that growth and expansion, and I feel very lucky that Julie and I have the opportunity to be a big part of that.”
Farjam, another longtime Bunim-Murray employee, worked on early docu-comedy “The Simple Life” as well as all the series in the “Kardashians” franchise. She most recently served as an executive producer on E!’s “I Am Cait.”
Ross’ producing credits include Bunim-Murray’s “The Challenge” for MTV and PB&J’s “Dress My Nest” for Style Network and “Pageant School: Becoming Miss America” for CMT, as well as several seasons of “Top Chef” for Bravo. Sambuchi has worked on shows such as “Singled Out,” “Project Runway,” “The Challenge” and “Road Rules,” as well as the MTV Movie Awards and other specials for MTV.