Key Points in Reality Show Talent Agreements
These are the main points usually covered by talent agreements between independent reality show producers and talent. (Depending on the specifics of the show, there may be additional important deal points as well.) Many of these same points are also covered in agreements directly between talent and a network or cable channel, when the deal is structured that way.
Here are the main points:
1. The specific concept of the show is described.
2. Producer has the sole and exclusive rights to shop the sole for a specified period of time (“the Term”) (often 12 months, but sometimes more and sometimes less), with the producer having the right to extend the term for a certain period of time if substantial negotiations with a network or cable channel are underway as of the end of the Term. Sometimes there will be financial
compensation to the talent in the meantime for the rights to shop the show, but generally not, though celebrity talent will expect and receive compensation typically.
3. The agreement will specify how many “production year options” the producer will have if the show is placed. (These are annual, separate, and consecutive options.)
4. The agreement will specify the specific screen credits to be accorded the producer and the talent.
5. The talent fee per episode will be specified. It’s either a specific dollar amount per episode, or it might be, for example, the lesser (or sometimes, greater) of (a) a certain percentage of the
episodic production budget; and (b) a specified dollar amount. Often the fees will escalate each consecutive year of production by a certain percentage (for example, 5%).
6. The talent’ back-end profit participation percentage will be specified and defined. Sometimes it also includes future income from format rights, and sometimes it doesn’t.
7. Any merchandising rights retained by the talent will be specified.
8. The parties’ respective rights re “sequels, spinoffs, and other derivatives” will be delineated.
9. Post-Term rights are defined. For example, there is often a clause to the effect that If the Term of the agreement ends, and the show isn’t set up yet , and if then the talent signs a deal with a
network or cable channel to which the producer had pitched the show during the Term, then the producer will be the producer as if the deal had been signed during the Term.
10. Again, depending on the relative bargaining power of the producer versus the talent, there may be additional important clauses necessary having to do with the particular circumstances of
either the producer or the talent.
In general, bear in mind that any talent agreements between producers and talent must be acceptable to the network or cable channel when they buy the show. They are the elephant in the
corner, and if they don't like your talent deal terms, they'll expect you to 'make it right' or they won’t buy the show. There are different contractual mechanisms for dealing with this issue, some of which are more favorable to producers, and some are more favorable to talent.
Also, it is often the case that particular networks and cable channel deals with certain issues in their own particular way, and it’s best if the parties’ attorneys and the talent agreement itself
anticipate those issues.
The other thing to bear in mind is that if the show is really successful, there WILL be a renegotiation of the talent deal terms.