Reality TV: The Latest Retail Trend?

Most readers are probably well acquainted with reality television programming as a genre and with titles such as "Undercover Boss," "The Apprentice" and "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."  The seemingly insatiable public appetite for reality television programs can present an inviting promotional opportunity for retail businesses and their leading figures. Imagine your retail company’s namesake or founder, or its current entrepreneurial or creative force, starring in a weekly show about his or her life and career. So goes the typical pitch from reality television producers, which in most cases is directed first to the prospective star of the show and is only later brought to the attention of the board of directors or management for consideration.

Manage the risks of publicity.

In considering whether to permit the show to proceed and in structuring the relevant terms, boards and management should consider the following, among other factors:

  • Limiting access to company facilities and personnel to protect trade secrets and confidential information and to minimize disruption to the business.
  • Precluding advertising tie-ins with competing companies and brands.
  • Controlling the time that the featured celebrity would be taken away from his or her day-to-day activities for the company.
  • Ensuring that exclusivity provisions do not prevent the featured celebrity from engaging in other promotional activities for the company and its business partners (distributors, licensees, etc.).
  • The degree of creative control, if any, that the company would exercise.
  • Termination rights, if any.
  • The extent, if any, to which the producers seek to share in the company’s revenues or profits attributable to the promotional impact of the show.

Enforce employment agreements.

In addition, it is always good practice for companies to require key personnel to enter into employment or obligations agreements covering confidentiality, full-time commitment of business time, and other customary matters. The presence of such an agreement can reduce the chance that key personnel would enter into a reality television show arrangement without permission from the board or management.

Make sure the rewards justify the risks.

Not every retail business is presented with the opportunity to be featured in a reality television show. It is also true that not every show will present its stars and their businesses in a favorable light, and not every entrepreneur has what it takes to come across well on screen. While these opportunities may be right for some businesses, boards and management should be mindful of the risks and should take care in structuring the arrangement.

Related topics: Employment, Risk Management