Former Kurtis and Towers producers open their own docs-for-cable network company

While local spot production may be at the bottom of the scale, documentary production for cable can be viewed as a growth industry with the explosion of cable outlets and its voracious need for programming.

Experienced doc-cable producers Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs hope to tap into those cable opportunities through their new company, Siskel/Jacobs.

Siskel was with Kurtis for four years and Jacobs spent seven years at Towers Productions, the last three as VP/chief creative officer, where he supervised production of more than 200 cable network shows, produced some and “wrote a ton of shows,” he said.

They have a virtual office, each working out of his home until they get the greenlight for one or more of the shows they have in development.

“We have lots of experience in the cable doc world and we know the landscape,” said Jacobs of his and Siskel’s relationships with A&E, History, Discovery, Travel and Biography channels. “So that’s obviously our area of focus.”

“We’re developing docs, of course, but also format shows with a host and series of characters and reality type shows, leaning more towards verite style, like ?The Restaurant,'” said Siskel, who was also executive producer on “Fake Out,” a series he created that ran for two seasons on Court TV.

Siskel said he and Jacobs became friends through their wives, who had been friends since attending the University of Chicago grad school. Sophia Siskel is VP/exhibitions and education at the Field Museum. Jacobs’ wife, Elizabeth Siegel, is curator of photography at the Art Institute.

“We think of our wives as our board of directors,” said Siskel.

For several years worked in L.A. the Travel Channel’s then-production company. He produced “Travel Daily,” hosted by Peter Greenberg, travel editor of The Today Show. His L.A. credentials were a match for Kurtis Productions. The Chicago native has a BA in English literature from Beloit College.

First job for Jacobs, who is from Columbus, Ohio and has a history degree from Yale, was producing venerable Milt Rosenberg’s “Extension 720” WGN radio show for two years.

In casting about for a new challenge, a friend pointed him towards Towers Productions which was going through an unprecedented growth period. Jacobs was a producer for his four years at the doc house.

Jon Siskel can be reached at 312/952-3271; jsiskel@ameritech.net. Greg Jacobs is at 773/655-0192.

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