Since creating Entertainment Studios 20 years ago, Byron Allen has made a successful transition from stand up comic to television visionary.
The former talk show host, who serves as the production and global distribution company’s chairman and chief executive officer of Entertainment Studios, has made almost $100 million annually from shows such as “Mr. Box Office.”
The sitcom, which stars Bill Bellamy and Jon Lovitz, centers on a Hollywood star [Bellamy]who, after an altercation with a paparazzo, is sentenced to six months of teaching high school in inner city Los Angeles. For Allen, “Mr. Box Office” is part of a bigger strategy that, according to BusinessWeek.com, involves meeting the demands of TV stations for programs by giving programs a less expensive option.
What that translates into is Allen cheaply and efficiently churning out thousands of hours of content, then licensing the programming for free to more than 1,300 broadcast television stations covering 89 percent of the country.
“We’re not saving lives here. We’re filling time,” the mogul told Business Week. “We’re just looking to make people laugh.”
Allen’s ability to produce and market TV content at a cheap price has filled a void for programmers who can’t afford to buy shows as well as advertisers that can’t afford to pay the prices set by popular network shows.
“We’re in the television real estate business,” the married father of three stated. “We offer, across all our television shows, probably 20 million to 25 million viewers a week.”
Despite his success, Allen has come under fire from former crewmembers for low wages and the International Cinematographers Guild and the Writers Guild of America, who have filed complaints against Entertainment Studios for unfair business practices. In addition, the businessman has also raised the ire of comedians who have filed two class action lawsuits for various alleged offenses that include the failure to pay residuals, which are payments given to actors for reruns.
Although he didn’t comment on the cases, Allen makes no apologies.
“We have a factory mentality. We focus on cost, cost, cost, and driving it down, because we know the more we spend, the higher the rating has to be,” he explained. “I think of us as the Walmart of television.”