One of the byproducts of reality television is that it has made celebrities out of businesspeople. The trend hit its stride with reality TV kingpin Mark Burnett’s The Apprentice, which debuted in January 2004 starring the omnipresent Donald Trump. The show and its offshoot, Celebrity Apprentice, is now in its 13th season, and has cast the die for others that followed. The formula? A titan of industry, replete with money and influence, gives a fledgling entrepreneur a chance to grab the brass ring of success and turn it into gold.
Shows like PitchMen, Shark Tank, and numerous talk shows have given direct marketing professionals a chance to sail into these celebrity-infested waters. They have helped take what has traditionally been a small pond and expanded it into a sea of virtually endless opportunity. The result is a tide of prospects and a kind of unprecedented deal “flow,” in which the chance to make money manifests itself as a ceaseless parade of hopefuls lapping at their feet, and a riptide of notoriety that pulls DR players into new and unimagined spheres of influence.
The result is a tide of prospects and a kind of unprecedented deal “flow.”
According to ERA pioneer Kevin Harrington, chairman of As Seen On TV, Inc., and one of Shark Tank’s original big fish, the show has created the opportunity to “take 15 minutes of fame and leverage it into 30.” The result for him has been keynote speaker engagements at events such as The International Hardware Show and The Great Ideas Summit, not to mention appearances on the likes of CNN, Good Morning America, and The Today Show. Fellow inaugural “shark” Barbara Corcoran now regularly serves as Today’s resident real estate expert. Inveterate inventor and QVC regular Lori Greiner occasionally makes appearances in the Tank under the registered moniker “The Warm-Blooded Shark.” And Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary, the ABC hit’s resident bully, has parlayed his penchant for ruthlessness into a billion-dollar investment fund.
Programs such as The Apprentice and Shark Tank are not only broadcast in domestic prime time and in repeats on cable holdings such as CNBC, they are syndicated worldwide in countries including Canada, Mexico, England, and other European nations. The result is that millions of viewers tune in to see whether someone just like them will realize their dreams of riches, or if those dreams are squelched and the hopeful eliminated in what is essentially a game-show competition.