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How NPACT Is Preparing for Peak Nonfiction TV

It has only been a year since the Nonfiction Producers Assn. (NPA) and PactUS merged to form NPACT, a trade organization designed to signify the unity and strength of the nonfiction production business. But in that short time, already a lot has evolved — within the television landscape and the organization itself.

“The scripted business has evolved over a longer period of time [and] has academies and institutes devoted to it,” says John Ford, general manager of NPACT. “Unscripted, because it came along later … didn’t have all of those institutions, and to some degree what we do now is filling in some of that void.”

With peak TV boasting 450-plus scripted series, NPACT wants to shine a light on the equally interesting and diverse unscripted offerings, “with an emphasis on creativity and how to present it in a business-like way in what is now a more challenging environment,” Ford says.

“When we started the organization, we were still falling under this large umbrella of reality television producers, and we all intuitively knew that there were so many nuances under reality that went unrecognized,” adds Laura Palumbo Johnson, executive producer and owner of Magilla Entertainment and founding member of NPACT. “What we’ve been doing since the beginning is helping to refine and define what unscripted means — that there are so many different genres, so many different pioneers that have figured out how to do different methods of unscripted.”

NPACT analyzes industry trends from potential mergers such as Disney-Fox and CBS-Viacom, to changing labor laws, to the influx of emerging content through new accessible technology, and provides context for how these added elements will affect its more than 100 member companies. NPACT also provides a forum for those nonfiction leaders in the television industry to address these added challenges with each other.

As part of its work to change the perception of nonfiction programming and celebrate the large strides the nonfiction industry has taken thus far, the organization created the NPACT Impact Awards. The inaugural ceremony was held June 4, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of NPACT’s formation.

Normally, shows or series get awards, whereas these are designed as body of work awards for the year “that you don’t see much of unless it’s a lifetime achievement award at the Emmys,” Ford says.

NPACT is celebrating networks, executives (at both the development and production level), agents and production companies who have been nonfiction leaders. In coming years, they hope to “branch out” into more categories, as well.

“We feel nonfiction-slash-reality is somewhat neglected on the awards front,” he says. For example, “there’s only one nonfiction award presented on the primetime Emmy Awards — the rest are presented over the weekend at the Creative Arts awards. We’d like to have our sector of the industry [receive] the greater prominence we think it deserves.”

Wheelhouse Ent. CEO Brent Montgomery, who sits on the board of directors of NPACT, received the inaugural Inspiration Award at the ceremony. He calls that achievement “probably the most appreciated honor” he’s ever gotten because it was given not only by his friends, but also his peers. And now he wants to pay it forward for the next crop of content creators.

“If you’re a creator, there’s more homes for content than there have ever been, but also there are parts of the business model where, if they continue, it’s not going to be the vibrant production world it has been for the past decade,” he says. “We just want to figure out smart ways of doing things differently, otherwise everybody, on both sides of the aisle, are just banging their heads against the wall looking for different results, which is the definition of insanity.”

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