Shark Tank, the ABC network’s popular prime-time business reality program, kicked off its 14th season on September 23 with a new twist: it aired with a live audience. The result of this change was rowdy spectators, much like a professional wrestling event where the Sharks often acted as de facto gladiators.
The net effect of this live audience was a program that appeared more like the Sharks playing in front of their audience, rather than the Sharks doing what they do best: being successful entrepreneurs who don’t just invest in promising products or services , but also convey the value and benefits of entrepreneurship to a broad spectrum of aspiring entrepreneurs across the country.
Entrepreneurship is about balancing risk and opportunity. The goal is to identify opportunities that offer the greatest upside potential with minimal downside risks. With any investment there are no guarantees. The Sharks have a keen eye for identifying products and services with positive risk/reward ratios. When highly attractive investment opportunities arise, sharks are known to turn to each other in hopes of being the winner of a deal. The entertainment provided as sharks compete is part of the show’s attraction.
What sets Shark Tank apart is its simplicity: aspiring entrepreneurs propose business ideas to a group of wealthy investors to invest in. Many of these entrepreneurs receive offers, often less than what they asked for. More importantly, when they sell a stake in their burgeoning companies, they get the opportunity to work with seasoned investors like Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful), and Daymond John.
Many of these entrepreneurs become very wealthy from the show. For example, Lori Greiner claims to have invested in over 100 products with a 90% success rate. All Sharks’ success rate is sure to be similarly impressive, given the vetting process to get on the show and the Sharks’ shrewd investing experiences.
The live audience adds a distraction that detracts from the matter-of-fact atmosphere that characterizes “Shark Tank” on its own pedestal. Howling onlookers suggesting “a deal” seems out of place. When a shark asks for the audience’s opinion on some aspect of the product being presented, it devalues the perceived value of a shark’s expertise.
As reality television offers a lot of entertainment, Shark Tank stands out as its own distinct brand that combines business, entrepreneurship, human interest and an educational element. Bringing a live audience into this balanced chemistry detracts from that value.
Shark Tank offers entertainment and education. It also offers hope to budding entrepreneurs. You can compare their products and services to what is on offer and follow the Sharks’ advice. Most are never invited to the show. You still benefit from everything the show offers.
Shark Tank is not designed for audience participation. The sharks deserve better (they agreed too). Those watching the show on TV deserve better. But most importantly, the many entrepreneurs who benefit from the show deserve better.