How ‘Shark Tank’ is reshaping reality TV

ABC’s “Shark Tank” doesn’t return until late September — but there’s no shortage of business-themed reality shows on TV.

CNBC, which began airing “Shark Tank” repeats in 2014, has built an entire prime-time lineup of entrepreneur-type shows, including two new entries this week — “Adventure Capitalists” and LeBron James’ “Cleveland Hustles” — to complement its returning hit “The Profit.”

(CNBC’s “West Texas Investors Club,” featuring blue-collar millionaires Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam wrapped its second season earlier this month; “Billion Dollar Buyer” will be back for Season 2 later this year.)

Maverick Carter (left) and LeBron James of “Cleveland Hustles.”
Photo: NBCUniversal

“We wanted to create a destination where there was a general sense that if you tuned in, you would get a very specific kind of show … an exploration and celebration of entrepreneurial spirit,” says CNBC programming exec Jim Ackerman. “We focus on the tens of millions of people that don’t want to get a job but [want to] create a job … and maybe even get rich in the process.

“It taps into something that’s really very of the moment. I do think more and more people want to … start their own business.”

Discovery is also looking to get in on the entrepreneurship TV trend. On Friday, it launches “Blue Collar Backers,” in which four investors in working-class industries invest their money (and labor) in projects including an engine shop and a barbershop expansion.

Given the success of Discovery’s “Fast N Loud” and “American Chopper” — which focus on small car and motorcycle shops — each “Backers” episode follows the business “build” for six months to a year. “Our audience historically is intrigued with craftsmen — people who can build things with their hands,” says Mike Sorenson, Discovery’s VP of production and development.

“A lot of business formats out there seem to be more shiny floor, studio-based where they’re contrived for TV, bringing people in to pitch people and solicit for money,” he adds. “This is following real people … out on the road.”
Here’s a look at current entrepreneur shows:

“Adventure Capitalists”

Monday at 10 p.m. on CNBC
Gimmick: Entrepreneurs put their recreation products through extreme endurance testing.
Investors: Former NFL linebacker/entrepreneur Dhani Jones, ex-skier/Integrate co-founder Jeremy Bloom and venture capitalist Craig Cooper.
Products: acoustic shark repellent, collapsible potty for camping.

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