Hearst Corp. and producer Mark Burnett in deal

AP News
Posted: Apr 11, 2011 3:11 PM
Hearst Corp. and producer Mark Burnett in deal

The Hearst Corp. said Monday it is buying half of prolific reality television producer Mark Burnett's company and folding it into a joint venture.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Burnett is the executive behind "Survivor," "The Apprentice" and "Shark Tank" and has produced more than 1,100 hours of television programming. Hearst has ownership stakes in cable networks heavy in nonfiction content, like A&E, History, Lifetime and ESPN.

Nonfiction programming has quickly become a staple at these networks and others, like Bravo and the Discovery family of networks, said Scott Sassa, president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication. Burnett has a proven ability to make popular shows that are advertiser-friendly, he said.

"We couldn't be more thrilled to be in partnership with Mark," Sassa said. "There was nobody else that we looked at."

Burnett said it was key that Hearst will allow him to sell programming to non-Hearst companies. The deal doesn't affect long-running shows like "Survivor," either.

The deal will allow him to expand into other areas and build complementary businesses around his programming, he said.

"I'm ready for the second act of my career," he said.

The arrangement falls in line with a trend toward consolidation of media companies and content producers, said Paul Kagan, CEO of analysts PK World Media.

"If you are a distributor of programming, it would be great to own content, and vice versa," he said.

Sassa said he believed that the development of nonfiction programming is a trend still on an upswing.

"'Survivor' was like `I Love Lucy' for nonfiction," Sassa said. "We haven't seen `The Brady Bunch' yet. We haven't seen `Seinfeld.' We haven't seen `Modern Family.'"

A decade ago, Sassa was a top executive at NBC at a time it was criticized for being suspicious of reality television, while CBS was profiting from "Survivor" and ABC from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."