NYC TV Week: Scripted Environment Good for Content Providers, Audiences, Says Donny Deutsch

New York — In this age of “Peak TV” and abundant scripted content, Donny Deutsch is not worried about viewers not finding Donny!, his upcoming comedy series on USA Network, or any other quality show.

“I can’t think of any compelling piece of creative where the reason it didn’t work is people didn’t have (enough) time,” Deutsch said Wednesday at The Content Show, part of NYC Television Week. “Like everything else, the good stuff will find a way... The audience finds them. It’s great news for content providers—if you build it they will come.”

During his conversation at the Park Central Hotel, the former CNBC talk show host and advertising exec talked about the getting into the scripted game, producing the show and the coming up with its feminist backbone and advertising strategy.

Deutsch said he was looking for a new challenge in the years following the end of Big Idea with Donny Deutsch’s run on CNBC. It dawned on him that people have one persona on camera, and another off. He made a pilot and USA bought it.

“They really wanted what they bought,” Deutsch said. “This is their big fourth quarter push. They’re really behind it.”

He likens Donny!, which premieres Nov. 10, to Donald Trump, as an amalgam of scripted, reality, politics and news. “The lines are blurred,” he said.

The show centers around his “character” Donny, a faux Dr. Phil wannabe TV host who doesn’t follow his own advice at home. It is important to be self aware playing a “roguish character,” he said. “I’m the butt of the jokes. That’s the key.” He considers it a feminist show, as the female characters are the “solutions and heroes” amid the buffoonery of his lead character.

Donny! is scripted but not in a traditional writers’ room sense. In crafting each episode, Deutsch and his cocreator first come up with the six or seven beats, then write an outline, then a raw script. They do call-backs with actors and improv with them, take those additions and produce a second draft of the script. Then do another round of improv and so forth. “It’s a very very organic process,” he said. “The actors are so pleasantly surprised.”

Another unusual aspect of the show is the fact that his character frequently breaks the fourth well to sell products. Audiences recognize product placement, Deutsch said, so he figured the show would be in on the joke, thinking it would be exciting to jump in head first.

Advertisers have to play along with content, he said. “Content providers cannot be afraid of this.” He sees the future bright for advertisers within the glutton of TV and ad-free viewing options.

“As long as you have viewers, consumers, people who want content and as long as you have content and as long as you have beer to be sold, that trifecta will find a way to connect,” he said. “They’re all codependent upon each other. That trifecta will continue to exist and measurements will get more and more refined.”