Heidi Reavis and Nicole Page Discuss the State of Reality TV Production Amid Covid-19 with Yahoo! Entertainment

Since Covid-19 halted production in every corner of the entertainment industry, reality television has been quickly trying to figure out how to adapt production for their next seasons to be safe amid ongoing transmission concerns. Following industry developments, Yahoo! Entertainment reported in an article on June 26, “The future of reality TV: How will shows adapt to the pandemic?,” that the ease of picking up production again largely depends on each show’s premise. For shows like Survivor and Temptation Island in which the casts are secluded by design, creating an entirely quarantined set for all cast and crew for the duration of the filming and production schedule is quite feasible. Shows like Amazing Race, however, which depend on travel and lots of interaction with strangers, will likely have to get more creative.

Yahoo! reached out to RPJ Partners Heidi Reavis and Nicole Page, who work extensively with production companies on unscripted series, to provide legal insight into the situation. They pointed out that production decisions have liability concerns and certain costs behind them. “Broadcasters are happy for the production companies to produce the content and assume all the risk even though they are the ones least able to bear the risk,” Page says in the article. “Also, they would seem to have an ethical obligation to provide for a point person to keep everyone safe. It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach. If everyone starts getting sick again, production will have to shut back down again.”

“Even more burdens are being foisted on the production companies that actually produce what the broadcasters show,” Reavis adds. “Pre-Covid budgets don’t account for Covid consultants, and a lot of production companies are just having to figure this out on their own. Those that can afford it may hire legal or third-party risk consultants for an added layer of advice and protection. All this adds expense, usually borne by the production company, dealing from a budget that may be slim to begin with.”

Reavis and Page understand the desire and need for highly detailed guidelines to mitigate health and safety risks, but with things changing rapidly and on a state-by-state basis, it can be hard for production companies to set guidelines that account for everything—or that are able to change as rapidly as the state and federal laws do. In the end, Reavis says, “producers want to protect their people,” and still need to do so within a budget that doesn’t account for pandemic protections.

Read more of Reavis’s and Page’s comments in the full article here.