Changes impel Towers’ shift to leaner business model

Jonathan Towers faces new challenges

After 24 successful years in the programming business, Jonathan Towers, founder and executive producer of Towers Productions — the unrivaled king of Chicago-based non-fiction shows for virtually every major cable network – has been forced to radically adapt his business model to television’s imperatives of change.

Consequently, Towers Productions has eliminated its once large staff of producers, writers, editors and many others, is working with a down-to-a-core staff, will relocate to reduced space before the end of the year, and its large inventory of company-owned equipment will be auctioned off in three weeks.

“To be clear about this, we’re staying in business, in Chicago,” Towers emphatically states.  “We still have lots of projects in development; however, these shows will be produced in a new and different fashion.

“Great Lakes Warrior” tugboat captain John Selvick“Reality is where the business is,” Towers says, pointing out that the projects currently being greenlit are mostly reality shows that follow real life people in offbeat pursuits, like Towers Productions’ recent “Great Lakes Warriors” for the History Channel that tracked tugboat captains as they navigated freight across the lakes.

“These kinds of shows require specialists whom you hire according to the genre and the subgenre being produced and you want people with that expertise,” he adds.

The emerging streamlined Towers Productions will stay with a core staff of fewer than 10, who will focus on the development of new show ideas and their management. “But beyond that, we will hire writers, producers and editors on a project-by-project basis.”

Towers maintain that television is a remarkably robust industry “and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.  The changes we are going through also mean more opportunities for other people.”

Given Towers Productions multitude of past accomplishments and connections, there’s no doubt that this new incarnation will succeed.  Towers started his company in 1987 with a $10,000 investment and built it into Chicago’s largest and most enduring independent production houses that created more than 1,000 hours of high-quality factual programming and employed more than 100 full-time staffers with benefits.

Towers Productions has been headquartered in the West Loop at 549 W. Randolph, where it occupies 15,000-sq.ft. of space –a full floor and parts of two other floors.  It has multiple editing suites, on and offline finishing rooms and recording booths and an in-house HD equipment inventory, valued at several million dollars.

The public online equipment auction begins June 21 at 8 a.m. and closes Tuesday, June 25.  The auction is being conducted by Joseph Finn Co., who is no strangers to the local market having facilitated equipment sales for many former Chicago production/post companies over the past 15 years.

Towers HD video post equipment will be available for on-site inspection at Towers Productions, 549 W. Randolph on Thursday, June 20, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.