Bunim/Murray’s Julie Pizzi


A second season of The Challenge: USA debuts on CBS later this week, on August 10, with stars from SurvivorBig Brother and The Amazing Race competing. The Challenge: USA marks the fourth version of the show that Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP) is producing, having stemmed from the long-running MTV original The Challenge, which is heading into its 39th season. Julie Pizzi, president of Bunim/Murray Productions, talks to TV Real about the evolution of The Challenge: USA and the reality TV genre as a whole.

***Image***TV REAL: How has The Challenge: USA evolved from season one?
PIZZI: The Challenge: USA season two combines CBS’s reality talent with MTV’s The Challenge talent in a fresh unpredictable format. This season, the location and house are more blue skies and aspirational than the more military-inspired season one. The format structure has also changed, allowing for exciting surprises and twists throughout the gameplay.

TV REAL: Tell me about the casting for the stars from previous hit series; what were some of the key attributes?
PIZZI: We always look to cast competitive players who are both audience and fan favorites and personal fans of The Challenge franchise—competitors who are excited to participate in The Challenge and conquer the game. The most interesting players are those who can play a social and political game as well as a physical game. We were able to bring on some of the most dynamic cast from SurvivorBig Brother and The Amazing Race, as well as MTV’s The Challenge franchise vets.

TV REAL: What other spin-offs from The Challenge is BMP involved in?
PIZZI: Bunim/Murray produces all of the spin-offs for MTV, CBS and Paramount+. The Challenge: World Championship brought all of the all-stars from the foreign [versions of] The Challenge—from Australia, Argentina and the U.K.—and paired them up with MTV’s franchise players for a world tournament. The Challenge: All-Stars features legendary cast from all 38 seasons of the series in a more comedic, nostalgic version of The Challenge series, and The Challenge: USA for CBS sources players from CBS’s iconic franchise series who have earned their stripes strategizing and competing for their way into becoming top-tier competitors.

TV REAL: What has given The Challenge such longevity in the reality space?
PIZZI: The Challenge was built on storytelling. In addition to the epic challenges and eliminations the cast participate in, they enter the game with backstory, history and relationships—some dating back 20-plus years. The Challenge, at its core, is a long-running soap opera with dynamic and complex characters who have unique personalities and athletic prowess.

TV REAL: What is BMP’s wider ethos in terms of the type of reality programs it wants to bring to the market?
PIZZI: Bunim/Murray has always been celebrated for its casting, storytelling and creativity. A Bunim/Murray show is thoughtful and unexpected and delivers compelling storytelling. BMP has found success in reality competition, docusoap series, documentary, house-reality, game formats; there is no genre we as a company are not capable of executing.

TV REAL: How have you seen the reality TV market evolve? What’s working best today?
PIZZI: That is, in fact, the million-dollar question. In the last few years, we have seen so much evolution in programming. What we see is a continued commitment to investing in binge-worthy, compelling stories with exclusive access, existing franchises and IP and a desire for projects that are unique and commercial and ultimately irresistible.