- April 29, 2021
Who watches broadcast television anymore?
Services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu that let viewers catch their favorite shows are drawing people away from traditional broadcast television.
But those new services are starving for content, says Chuck Ardezzone, the CEO of ITZ Media Group in Naples. “Content is king,” he says.
ITZ creates television shows and films, using its own funds and those of investors to create them. “People are watching everything on demand. That's what the future is.”
Already, ITZ has had success with several reality television shows, including “Tobacco Wars” on the Country Music Television channel. The company has produced pilots called “sizzle reels” for 50 reality shows and it's working on more, including one about wealthy Naples housewives. “I've got 20 in the works right now,” Ardezzone says.
What's hot on television now is unique access to dangerous worlds and family-owned businesses with drama and colorful characters (think “Duck Dynasty”). “Danger is really important now,” Ardezzone says.
ITZ's bread-and-butter business remains shooting television commercials for businesses ranging from jewelry stores to car dealers. But scripted television shows and films will become a bigger part of ITZ's business because on-demand services like Netflix are seeking new shows to keep viewers. “They're starving for content,” says Ardezzone. “That's going to be a major part of our business.”
While Ardezzone has funded many of the television and film projects himself, it's an expensive proposition. A series of 10 episodes costs about $1 million to produce. “We're still actively seeking investors,” says Ardezzone, who says investors can buy as little as $50,000 a share in an episode.
There's “Drastic Plastic,” a reality show about a plastic surgeon in Pittsburgh who will operate on any body part. And there's “Naked in the Glades,” which follows a group of people without clothes surviving in the Everglades. “They want hits,” says Ardezzone. “They want to know what's going to happen 26 episodes down the road.”
One of the television shows ITZ is working on now is “Weed City.” It's a series based on the marijuana smuggling that flourished in Everglades City during the 1980s and ended with a spectacular bust in which law enforcement agents seized many of the town's fishing boats and arrested dozens of people. “We just finished the pilot,” Ardezzone says.
All it takes is a single show to be successful and attract more investors. “One of these is going to be that big hit,” says Ardezzone, who moved to Southwest Florida from the New York City area in 2004 and started the business with just $5,000 and a $1,000 loan.
Ardezzone and business partner Frank Monti recently acquired the former headquarters of Univision in New Jersey, a 10-minute drive from Midtown Manhattan. The 30,000-square-foot film and television studio will allow ITZ to shoot infomercials, commercials, reality shows and films.
“It could boost the business 10-fold,” says Ardezzone, a Long Island, N.Y., native. “It has that kind of potential.”