Sony’s Holly Jacobs on the Return of Nostalgia in Programming

Sony's Holly Jacobs

Holly Jacobs, Executive Vice President of U.S. Reality and Syndicated Programming for Sony Pictures Television, oversees and directs all non-scripted TV programming development for broadcast, cable and first run syndication. Her efforts have created such landmark programs as the multiple Emmy Award-winning shows “Shark Tank” on ABC and “The Dr. Oz Show” for first-run syndication. She has deep experience in program development with stints at Fox Television Studios as Executive Vice President of Alternative Development; Buena Vista Productions as Executive Vice President, Programming and Development, and ABC Daytime as Vice President, Programming where she had oversight for “The View.” In addition to her professional responsibilities, Holly also devotes time to mentoring as part of the Women in Entertainment Big Sister program. “Mentoring has to be part of one’s internal job description,” she told me during a recent conversation. “It has to be more than just your own corporate climb. It is also who you are lifting up.”

Charlene Weisler: How is non-scripted programming evolving in this more technological, data-driven media ecosystem?

Holly Jacobs:  When we launched “The Dr. Oz Show” in 2009 it was a very different world. There was not the wealth of information at everyone’s fingertips.  Everyone now can Google every ache, pain and funny looking spot on their skin. As the show has always been a key destination for conversations about health and wellness, we’ve learned to adapt and evolve with the times. While the show continues to lead these conversations, we’ve also shifted focus and now also help the viewers curate and have context for what they gather online. We don’t just present; we help decipher the vast amount of information out there.

Charlene: Are the types of non-scripted shows changing over time?

Holly: Yes. We are always evolving. And it also goes in cycles. There is a trend now in nostalgia. ABC is launching a Sunday Night Fun and Games block which includes classic game shows from the 1970s and 1980s, like our new version of “The $100,000 Pyramid” hosted by Michael Strahan.

Charlene: The nostalgia trend is interesting. Is it coming from Millennials and if so, why?

Holly:  I think it is a combination of things. Millennials are embracing origin stories and are interested in knowing where things began. Birkenstock shoes are a great example of a nostalgic brand making a comeback. But there is also a comfort zone of nostalgia that is multi-generational, particularly in a time where there is a 24-hour news cycle.  People are looking for an escape.

Charlene: How much do you depend on research and data to help guide programming decisions?

Holly: I love research but I am not a slave to research. We don’t just gather data, we also follow the narrative and cultural relevance behind the results.  We also use online panels to get a real time pulse-point on content. Then we compare and contrast to look at the 360 of the brand.

Charlene: How do you find talent today?

Holly: There are many platforms where we can find talent so we look everywhere and on everything. It is a creator economy — everyone creates content — and we like to see who is bubbling up, who is connecting and resonating. We look at Vine stars, YouTube stars and of course recognizable talent from traditional media.

Charlene: Is it easier or harder to make talent decisions with all of these options?

Holly: Well, it makes it exciting and exhausting. It is a very dynamic time.

Continue Reading…

Continue Reading

Interview With Founder Gary Gentles


Finding hip-hop music online is easy. There are literally hundreds of blogs and sites dedicated to the genre and its myriad sub-genres but when it comes to R&B it’s a different story. As popular as the genre is there are very few sites that cater to the niche. Sure there are entertainment sites that cover a range of different types of black music but there are very few that focus on the world of R&B, its rising stars, and the community of people who are passionate about it. Enter Founded in January 2006 by entrepreneur, educator, and real estate mogul Gary Gentles and Adeniyi Osimore, Singersroom was created to fill that void. Omisore and Gentles met at Manhattan College, where they both ran track. They became fast friends when they realized they both had a passion for IT and Web design. Partnering to form the MusicLife Entertainment Group (MLE Group) they set out on a mission to “Live.Create.Entertain.”

BE Next spoke to founder Gary Gentles to hear how they did it!

BE Next: Was always intended to be a business venture or was this a passion/hobby that turned into one?

Gary Gentles: Adeniyi and I both majored in Computer Information Systems and Finance so once we started collaborating together, everything was about business. As far as Singersroom goes, this was a niche that was missing online at the time. There was a lot of hip-hop sites and a few soul sites but no online portal that showcased Rhythm & Blues as a whole.

What was the original concept behind Singersroom? Has the Singersroom brand evolved into something else or something bigger since it started?

Gentles: Our core values have remained the same but like any product or service, we’ve made strategic additions to increase our fan base. Programs like Acoustic Conversation (offline/online) and 30 Under 30 (online) are examples of becoming more innovative, while adhering to our mission.

Who is your target audience?

Gentles: Our goal is to reach general consumers participating in the R&B lifestyle, which tends to be mainly women of all ethnicities.

How did you reach them in 2006 and how will you reach them now?

Gentles: Prior to launching Singersroom, we promoted showcases so once the portal launched, we had a decent email list to promote the product to. In addition, we used our relationships at record labels to secure exclusive content. We have several new products we plan to take to market, which will help us increase our consumer brand penetration and diversify our audience.

Was it difficult for SR to wrangle celebrities and get content at first?

Gentles: Not to brag, but we interviewed Trey Songz, Chris Brown and Yolanda Adams during our initial inception [and early in their careers] so I don’t think it was ever difficult because we had great relationships. We also didn’t come out the gate thinking we could interview Beyonce… [laughs] Everything we did was very strategic.

How do you all measure success?

Gary Gentles: Me personally, success is measured by several pieces. This includes, growing revenue, helping to break artists, empowering our consumers, development innovative products, amongst other things.

At what point did you realize that you all had a successful endeavor on your hands?

Gary Gentles: I think we realized from our inception that this product would be successful due to its demand. Our user retention rate was over 70% and record labels (small to major) saw us as a great marketing tool for their roster. Being recognized by Soul Train was a huge stepping-stone for our brand but our success really came down to proper implementation.

Interview by BE Next and edited to fit Sonic Boom NY.

Continue Reading