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Producer Perspective: Guy Nickerson

A 27-year veteran of broadcast television and two-time Daytime Emmy winner -- and seven-time nominee -- Guy’s career began in television news in the early 80’s. In 1987 he left news to found Spectrum Productions, a full-service television production company in Tampa, Florida. Guy recently shared his unique producer perspective with CableU Confidential.

1. Where do you find inspiration for a new show idea?

GN: We are always on the search for compelling characters with stories to tell.  Like most producers, I scour the Internet, newspapers, TV news, radio… and I selectively entertain solicitations that come in from people who have heard of us and think they have interesting stories to tell; although that is one of those things that I do with care, because if you let every person that calls tell you his or her life story, you could go out of business.

Beyond my team’s character/story searches, watching the networks inspires me.  I jokingly tell my wife I have to watch TV for research, but truthfully I do.  I love TV!  When I’m in a pitch meeting and I tell the development exec that I watch, it’s because I do.  Many times the ideas I bring to the table are derived from being a fan/viewer of the actual of network.

2. What research do you do before going into a pitching session?

GN: As I mentioned, I really watch the networks I’m pitching to and their competitors. So aside from the vetting process we go through internally, we also make sure there is a need for the show.  I don’t mean for this to be a plug session, but I really rely on Cable U as well as personal contacts in the networks to create the best scenario going into a pitch.

3. What advise do you have for upstart producers trying to get their foot in the door?

GN: Being based in Tampa, I can sympathize with being an outsider in a very competitive and tight community.

When I started, the only way to find out the information currently packaged by Cable U was to fly around the country and meet with the development folks at each network.  So the fact that this resource is available now is a phenomenal advantage to an upstart producer.

Beyond that, the most important thing to understand is that this is a relationship business.  Get out there and meet people at the festivals.  Don’t worry about not getting access to the VP of Development for a certain network immediately.  Get to know people and develop relationships over time. Deliver ideas that you are capable of producing and fit the networks needs, but realize that success generally takes time.  Don’t get discouraged!  You have an uphill battle competing with established producers, so go overboard in your pitch materials and preparation, secure access to unique characters, learn the networks and trends (all of the information you need is in Cable U…plug, plug, plug) and provide a sample DVD, not a finished pilot.  Stay positive, take your lumps and try to come back each time with better ideas.

And last but not least, don’t get into producing because you have one idea for a great show.

4. What show do you wish you had produced and why?

GN: Well, of course I’ll say all of the ones I’ve presented because I so passionately believe in the potential of every one of them.  Aside from our own material, I’d truthfully have to say House Hunters and HH International.  That show just doesn’t stop.  It is a simple, well-conceived and very repeatable concept, which in the end means a win for all parties.  Otherwise, the list is long for various reasons.

5. What types of shows do you think are most in demand now?

GN: Anything with strong characters and a unique perspective seems to appeal to viewers.

6. What types of programs do you wish were in demand now?  (or think should be).

GN: I guess the programs that are succeeding right now are doing it for a reason.  The viewer’s taste evolves, so my goal is to try and guess where that is going instead of wishing what it might be.

7. What types of projects interest you most and why?

GN: Again, I love characters and big personalities, but not necessarily people who just want to be on TV.  Projects with authentic people with heart are what I am interested in.  Beyond that, my company has a certain cinematic style and perspective that draws us to highly visual productions, so in addition to compelling story lines, we are attracted to certain projects with visually engaging subjects that we can put our mark on.

8. How important do you think it is for your show idea to have an online component?

GN: The importance varies depending on the network and project. My company has two divisions, one that focuses on programming and another with highly specialized experience in online content and web development, so we always have a plan for supporting a project with online content should the network have the interest.

9. Where does most of your budget funding come from, if not from the network?

GN: Like most producers, our development funding comes from in-house coffers.  Otherwise, most of our productions have been full commissions (either co-produced or with individual networks).

10. How often do you attend industry conferences and festivals, and which are most important for your business?

GN: I try to attend two a year minimum, but for me RealScreen is my favorite.  I’ve been attending since its inception and have met some great people at a number of networks and other production companies.  It’s always great to hear firsthand stories of programming success and learn more about network needs in one fell swoop. And it’s a great way to make the most of your development dollars.


A 27-year veteran of broadcast television, Guy’s career began in television news in the early 80’s. In 1987, Guy left news to found Spectrum Productions, a full-service television production company in Tampa, Florida.  A two-time Daytime Emmy winner and seven-time nominee, Guy has executive produced, produced, directed and managed the production of over 400 episodes of television programming, ranging from natural history, hidden-camera and docu-soap formats to how-to and animation.  Guy’s productions have taken him to locations around the globe, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Alaska, Malaysia, Mexico, Fiji, Tazmania, Australia and Canada.

In 2007 Guy launched Mindclay Creative, a creative services division of Spectrum focused on branded and online content for commercial productions and network projects. The synergies between the two divisions uniquely positions Spectrum to address the growing trends of sponsor integration and online content in any production.

Guy produced and/or directed one of the longest running wildlife series, Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, for many years and is now partners with Jack Hanna on his latest syndicated series, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.   Additionally Guy has produced numerous series and specials for Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Kids and BBC.

Guy and his team are currently nominated for Outstanding Children’s Television Series category for Adventure Camp, a Discovery Kids/BBC co-production, for the upcoming 2009 Daytime Emmy Awards.