Bunim/Murray’s Rupert Dobson

Long considered a pioneer in the reality TV space, Bunim/Murray Productions has kept up with what audiences are looking for in their unscripted entertainment. It has sharpened its focus on authentic, real human storytelling. Rupert Dobson, executive VP of development at Bunim/Murray Productions, talks to TV Formats about the types of entertainment that can cut through the noise.

***Image***TV FORMATS: How has the pendulum swung in the entertainment space from when Bunim/Murray first launched to where it is today?
DOBSON: Bunim/Murray was launched right at the dawn of the unscripted genre—truly one of the pioneer production companies in this space. There really wasn’t a lot of what you’d call “reality” programming at the time. Cable was just starting to explode, and it was an exciting time in our industry to break new ground.

Now we’re in the time of “peak TV,” where there is a lot more competition in the marketplace. It’s definitely more of a challenge to cut through the noise and be unique, but it’s a fun challenge and one that our team at Bunim/Murray relishes and continues to thrive on.

TV FORMATS: Looking at the current entertainment landscape, what’s working best?
DOBSON: We’re seeing successes where existing IP or big-name talent can really help draw an audience. At the same time, the classic genres are still working—dating, docusoap, social experiment—people still love to watch fun, compelling human stories.

TV FORMATS: What is giving you optimism about entertainment in 2024? What are the opportunities you see?
DOBSON: Bunim/Murray has always been an agile innovator, and you need to be both in 2024. There’s a lot of churn and consolidation going on with the buyers at the moment, so we lean on our relationships and history of executing to give us the edge. There are currently some really exciting opportunities as platforms look to increase their unscripted offering. Unscripted continues to deliver unrivaled bang for the buck, so it’s only going to evolve and improve, and we’re confident we can be at the forefront of that.

TV FORMATS: Many of the Bunim/Murray shows are rooted in big personalities. What’s the key production know-how to share when doing an international adaptation?
DOBSON: For Buddy Games, where we partnered with movie star Josh Duhamel for a series that launched this past year on CBS, adapting was all about staying true to his original film concept and retaining the things that made it a success in the U.S. The TV show worked because it truly spoke to what Josh does every year with his own friends—getting together and having fun competing with each other. So, I’d say, wherever these shows are adapted, if you can keep the core qualities, it’s likely to succeed.

TV FORMATS: Dating is a perennially hot genre. How does a show like Is There Still Sex in the City put a new spin on it?
DOBSON: We are really excited to be working with Candace Bushnell, who created the iconic Sex and the City franchise. Is There Still Sex in the City is a great example of taking beloved IP and evolving it for the unscripted genre. We’re taking the core, a close friend group of mature women who are looking to explore the dating world and think out of the box to find true love. It’s aspirational and relatable, just like the world Candace originally created. Dating of all kinds still resonates with the audience; it’s relatable, frothy and fun, and the stakes are huge: finding the right one. The trick is to keep finding new ways to tell those stories.