Jon Kramer, the CEO of Rive Gauche Television, talks to TV Real about how his company’s non-scripted offering breaks through the noise in the factual space.
Arriving on the scene more than two decades ago, Rive Gauche Television has amassed a portfolio of 2,200-plus hours of non-scripted programming ranging from documentaries and reality series to true-crime titles, travel shows and more. Some of its heavy-hitters include Homicide Hunter and Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer. “Rive Gauche likes to push the envelope,” says the company’s CEO, Jon Kramer.
One series that catches viewers’—and broadcasters’—attention worldwide by doing just that is My Strange Addiction. The show documents the stories of individuals battling obsessive behaviors that threaten to take over their lives such as eating toilet paper or chalk, picking their scabs or bleaching their skin. The program even follows someone who is addicted to sleeping with a blow dryer. Each half-hour episode features two individuals battling uncontrollable behaviors, with experts helping them explore the motivation behind their actions.
The outside-the-box thread seen in shows like My Strange Addiction can be found throughout the catalog. According to Kramer, Buying the Bayou is the My Strange Addiction of the travel/real estate genre. He says the show “combines a number of genres and ticks a lot of boxes.” It grabs viewers’ attention because “you get to travel to a very different place, the Bayou. You get to see houses that are built in the Bayou, which are much different from houses you’d normally see; and the people who live in the Bayou are unique, so you get to meet homeowners and real estate agents that are characters.”
The travel genre is a popular one that has been evolving to stay fresh. “What Rive Gauche has to offer in the travel space are alternative brands that could be developed and are available for broadcasters who want to be in this space, or digitals that want to be in this space that can’t get access to the basic couple of benchmark shows that define the space.”
In addition to outside-the-box series like Buying the Bayou, in the travel category, Rive Gauche has “shows that are aspirational and down-the-middle,” Kramer explains. Ultimate Homes and Buying Hawaii, two pillars of Rive Gauche’s offering, provide audiences with aspirational real estate experiences. “Both series take viewers to exotic places,” Kramer says. “Ultimate Homes appeals to a viewer who wants to see what the very rich have attained in terms of housing, while Buying Hawaii is for the normal person who wants to see what it’s like to buy a home in Hawaii.”
Crime is having its heyday, and Rive Gauche has a range of recognizable brands that sell well. “Our crime shows are of the highest quality and offer distinctive topics within the genre,” Kramer says. He calls titles such as Homicide Hunter, Ice Cold Killers, Wives with Knives, The Day I Should Have Died and Catch My Killer “addictive programming” for women in the 34-to-54 age range. The shows work for broadcasters because “a channel can count on their audience’s loyalty and schedule a program that they know will deliver,” he says. “In today’s very competitive marketplace, that’s a rarity.” Homicide Hunter, in particular, has been a hit for Investigation Discovery. In the show, Lieutenant Joe Kenda’s first-person narrative and re-creations bring to life some of his most challenging murder cases to see how the crimes were solved.
The company also has lighthearted shows that provide viewers with new experiences. Kramer points to The Illegal Eater as an example. The food-travel hybrid series is presented by Steven Page, a former member of the rock band Barenaked Ladies. “He’s a famous rocker, very personable, very quirky, and he takes you to a lot of strange places to eat,” Kramer says.
Rive Gauche launched a new entry into the international market at MIPTV. “Egg Factor is a one-of-a-kind show that follows a company that provides its expertise in making it possible for families who have struggled to create a family realize their dream through egg donation,” Kramer explains. “In a marketplace seeking fresh new product, this show is exactly what they need. Appealing to women 20 and up, the show will also capture men in the 25-to-45 range. This is just another example of a long list of Rive Gauche shows that offer something unique to the marketplace for those programmers willing to take a chance on a new genre and reap the benefits.”
Looking to the future, Kramer says the company aims to “build in the unscripted area through U.S. development and acquisitions. As the market evolves, Rive Gauche Television will evolve with it. As we go through this transition, we want the marketplace to know we are there to work with them.”
Kramer notes that the company is also focused on expanding its scripted offering, starting with the introduction of Overexposed, the first in a line of TV movies. “We are hoping to be able to deliver two to four a year once we ramp up,” he says. “A second movie is already in the works.” Through its sister company AfterShock Comics, Rive Gauche is also developing scripted series for the worldwide market. “All these activities will help Rive Gauche Television become a diversified supplier with unscripted, scripted and TV movie fare,” Kramer notes. “This expansion will better serve our clients with unique, top-quality programming, which the market has grown to expect from Rive Gauche.”