Why Byron Allen Is the Biggest TV Producer Working Today... Period.
Photo Credit: S & A

Why Byron Allen Is the Biggest TV Producer Working Today... Period.

nullNow those of

my generation will, of course, remember Byron Allen. Back during the

late 70’s, well into the early 80’s, Allen was a very familiar presence on television.

A stand up comic

firmly rooted in the Bill Cosby-type, family friendly, clean humor mold, Allen

was seemingly everywhere on TV back then – on specials, game shows and talk

shows – morning, afternoon and evening.

He started

his career very early at 14, working at amateur comic clubs, and around that same

time, was discovered by comedian Jimmy Walker, who hired him to write jokes for

him, along with another struggling unknown, David Letterman. Eventually Allen

became the youngest comic to ever appear on "The Tonight Show" when he was only

18 years old.

The very

next day, after his "Tonight Show" appearance, impressed by what they saw, the

producers of the NBC show "Real People," offered Allen the job of host, which he accepted… and the rest is history.

However, after several years, Allen realized the real power wasn’t in front of

the camera, but behind it, and, in 1993, along with his mother – who was an NBC publicist – started his own production company, Entertainment Studios, with his first series "Entertainers

with Byron Allen." From that moment, he hasn’t looked back since, and reportedly is now

worth over $300 million, and climbing.

Today, Allen,

through his company, is the biggest independent producer and distributor of TV

programs in the world, with some 32 shows currently on the air, in syndication, on networks, local stations and cable, such as "America’s Court" with Judge Ross, "Comics Unleashed," "Beautiful Homes & Great Estates," and "The Young Icons."

Now you’re perhaps

saying to yourself, I’ve never heard of these (and in fact neither have I), but that’s not really the point. The real deal

is how Allen is getting these shows on the air; and that’s where all the money

is coming from.

Let me explain…

Let’s say

you’re a TV producer of a show. Now, what usually happens is that, you sell it to

a network or cable channel for a fixed, agreed-to amount of money. As an example,

let’s say one million per episode, for an hour-long dramatic series. Then the network

turns around and approaches advertisers to buy ad time on the show, hoping that

they will make enough to make up for the cost of buying the show from you, and

maybe even make more of a profit.

But if the

show is a ratings bust, then the network will have trouble selling ad time, or will beforced to offer bids at a lower rate. All this means is that, they lose money,

the show gets cancelled, and you, as the producer, now have to scramble to get another

show on the air, to start making money again.

However, in the

case of Allen, since he’s dealing exclusively with syndicated television, he

has a better deal. He barters his


In other

words, he offers all his shows to stations and networks for free. You don’t have to pay him for the right to broadcast his shows

and he pays for all production and distribution.

The deal however

that in exchange for getting the show for free. He gets to sell a minimum of 50% of the ad

time for the show himself. The ad revenue goes straight to him, and the money

that he gets is always much more than what he would get if he sold the show to

the station.

And as a

network or local channel, it’s a great deal. You get a show for free, and the other

50% of the ad time to sell. And it doesn’t really matter how well or badly the

show does in terms of ratings. As long as you can sell ad time for the show, it’s a

sweet deal. It’s the closest thing to free money.

Look at it

this way: You own a local station and you have a late night slot to fill. You

could either get "The Wendy Williams Show," which you have to buy per episode, or get

a Bryon Allen bartered show for free. True, the Williams’ show could pull in

ratings and you could make money from it. But, for how long? What happens if the

ratings take a big dive?

Or you can

get a show for free from Allen, with the 50% ad time offer, and you’re guaranteed to make money, regardless of the


Bartering is not a new concept. It’s been done for at least 30 years in the syndicated

TV business. But it’s really picked up in popularity in the last few years, since

money is a lot tighter now for local stations and competition is really fierce.

In the end, it all means that a lot of people are making a lot of money, with Allen sitting quite

comfortably on top of his self-made TV empire.

That’s why

he’s got that big smile on his face.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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