About Us

Widely credited for creating the celeb-reality genre of reality programming, 51 Minds Entertainment has amused and shocked viewers with its enormously popular television series.  This dynamic reality television production company was established by Executive Producer Cris Abrego of 51 Pictures and Executive Producer Mark Cronin of Mindless Entertainment.

In 2003 when these two extraordinary producers met they created the now infamous pop culture hit, The Surreal Life, and 51 Minds Entertainment was born.  When the hilarious reality-sitcom debuted, it set time period records for a series on The WB in five key demos, and reached 5.3 million viewers in second season premiere.  With Season 3, the series made the move to VH1 and became even more of a pop culture phenomenon.  The show was the number one rated original series on VH1 and continued to break its own records with every airing. The NY Times stated that Surreal Life boasts the most “genuinely unconventional characters on television,” and encourages viewers to watch “the most compelling character study you will see on television.”

On VH1 the 51 Minds brand of celeb-reality expanded and gained notoriety.  The team produced such ratings hits as Flavor of Love, My Fair Brady, Rock of Love, Charm School, I Love New York, I Love Money and of course more seasons of the successful Surreal Life franchise.  These shows helped launch VH1 to its highest ratings ever. With each new program, 51 Minds continued to shatter all of the channel’s ratings successes and still to this day holds the records for the highest rated programs on their channel of all time.

In addition to traditional broadcast ratings success, 51 Minds’ programs also launched into digital and VOD platforms.  The company’s digital content was and is a major driver for VH1.com, at one point making up over 85% of the site’s streams and two-thirds of VOD orders.

In 2006, the growing popularity of the 51 Minds brand led to domestic syndication of several of their series on the TV Guide Channel (the biggest programming deal ever for the channel) as well as multiple international syndication and format deals.

In April of 2008, the company embarked on a new chapter when Endemol USA bought 51% of the company with options to acquire the rest at a later date.  Through this partnership, 51 Minds has continued to run as an independent production company producing shows that provide the hilarious and ridiculous antics that have earned success for the 51 Minds brand – but drawing now on the advantages that come with an international production and sales powerhouse.

In 2009 51 Minds expanded its alternative media business when it teamed up with Sony’s Playstation Network as the first production company to produce original content to be distributed on their game console network reaching 35 million homes.  Also in 2009, 51 Minds launched “New York Goes to Work” on VH1 which was a fully SMS interactive show where the viewers would vote each week what job they wanted NY to do next.  In branded entertainment arena, 51 Minds has been tasked to create entertaining programming highlighting specific brands and products.  One example was the successful short-form program “Rock Band 2 – The Stars” which helped launch the release of video game Rock Band 2.

51 Minds has a proven ability to create successful programming on any scale and in any video delivery media.  Reality TV shows currently in production include Does Someone Have to Go? (Fox), Ghost Mine Season 2 (SyFy) , Whodunnit? (ABC), season 3 of T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle (VH1), Redneck Island Season 3 (CMT), and Transplants: Nurses of the OC (MTV). The 51 Minds production team has produced over 60 individual series, almost as many valuable franchises, scores of formats, over 500 hours of programming, and there is no end in sight.
This dynamic production team has produced 53 individual series, totaling 586 episodes, and over 500 hours of tv programming! Here are a few ratings highlights:

•    T.I. and Tiny came out for its second season in a big way, posting series-best back to back premieres (2.67 at 9pm and a 2.53 at 930pm).

•    The second season kicked off with the highest ratings for a series premiere in the channel’s history.

•    The premiere episode of this series was up 22% from La La’s Season 1 premiere and drew a total of 2.9M viewers for the night.
•    Episode 103 premiered on Sept. 05 beat episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kate Plus 8, and a repeat of America’s Got Talent in its timeslot in the demo.
•    TOP SECRET RECIPE was the most watched show on CMT during it’s premiere night, in households (0.38), P18-49 (223,000), P25-54 (252,000) and total viewers (482,000).  It was the most watched telecast in the timeslot for an original series since 8/20/10.

•    This premiere was the highest-rated show on VH1 the week that it aired.
•    Through out the series Full Court Wedding averaged an impressive 2.62 p18-49 cumulative weeks rating.

•    The premiere week of Ochocinco pulled in over 8 million viewers. It’s cumulative week rating scored an outstanding 5.4 p18-49 rating.

Vh1.com Statistics:
•    Series averaged between 300,000 and 400,000 streams per on-air week.

•    The cumulative week ratings for both the premiere and the finale episodes averaged over 6 million viewers in it’s premiere week!

Vh1.com Statistics:
•    Series averaged between 500,000 and 600,000 page views per week.

•    The cumulative premiere day rating for each For the Love of Ray J episode averaged over 4 million viewers for the day!

•    4.2 million viewers tune in for the season finale of For The Love Of Ray J 2 propelling the episode to the #1 telecast on cable for the night and the #1 telecast on VH1 for the year to date.

Vh1.com Statistics:
•    Series averaged 600,000 page views per week
•    Series averaged 550,000 video streams per week for original content
•    Series averaged 150,000k + unique visitors per week.


Season 1  -
•    VH1 drew 4.2 million viewers to the season finale of Real Chance of Love, making it the most-watched non-sports program of the night. The 90-minute finale scored a 2.3 rating in the 18-49 year-old demographic.

Season 2  -
•    The season finale of Real Chance of Love 2 scored an impressive 1.43 P18-49 rating in its premiere time slot. The cumulative week rating for this episode scored over 6 million viewers.

Vh1.com Statistics:
•    Season 2 averaged between 800-900k .streams per week .

Season 1  -
•    The cumulative week rating for each Rock of Love episode averaged over 10 million viewers every week.
•    This series is one of the top 10 series in Vh1 history.

Season 2  -
•    Vh1’s 4th highest rated series of all time.
•    The cumulative week rating for each Rock of Love 2 episode averaged over 12 million viewers every week.
•    10 of the 13 episodes held the #1 spot in cable each Sunday that it premiered.

Season 3  -
•    The cumulative week rating for each Rock of Love 3 episode averaged over 9 million viewers every week.

Vh1.com Statistics:
•    Series broke all network streaming records with 1.4 million
content streams in a single day. Series also recorded a 192% jump in
online blog activity, and a 97% growth in viewership in a single day.

51 Minds programs have historically been a huge draw to Vh1.com. Here are some numbers for some of our other shows.

•    DAISY OF LOVE  – Series premiered during the same week as For the Love of Ray J. Vh1.com logged 6 million original content streams that week. This series averaged 800,000 content streams per week

I LOVE MONEY – Series averages 700,000 content streams per week.

Mark Cronin

Mark Cronin

- Co-President, Executive Producer

Mark Cronin, an Ivy League educated chemical engineer, drastically switched careers when he joined Howard Stern’s nationally syndicated Saturday night television show as one of the only two staff writers in 1991. He went on to contribute to Stern’s national radio show and serve as producer/writer on all of Sterns early television projects, including the infamous New Year’s Rotten Eve pay per view special – the highest grossing non-sports pay per view event of all time. Cronin moved from NY to LA in 1994 and quickly advanced from head-writer to show-runner on several shows including MTV’s Singled Out , Fox’s Big Deal, and the The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show. In 1997 Mark founded Mindless Entertainment and created shows such as The X Show and Hurt Bert on FX, Beat the Geeks on Comedy Central, Cram and Extreme Dodge Ball on GSN, and the IFC competition series Ultimate Film Fanatic. In 2004 Cronin’s Mindless Entertainment teamed up with Cris Abrego’s 51 Pictures to form 51 Minds Entertainment. Anchored by the “Celebreality” flagship show The Surreal Life, the company went on to create hugely successful shows for Vh1 including Flavor of Love, My Fair Brady, and Rock of Love w/ Bret Michaels. The company has since produced a wide range of celebrity based programming including; Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business, and Bret Michael’s Life as I know It. Mark continues to spearhead the development of successful series that run the gamut from game shows to docu-series; all with a unique spin on the reality tv genre.

Cris Abrego

Cris Abrego

- Co-President, Executive Producer

A true innovator in an ever-changing medium, Cris Abrego has established himself as a leading voice in the foundation of reality television, as well as it’s future.  Having honed his skills at every level of production prior to heading up his own company, 51 Pictures, in 2003, Abrego’s subsequent combination of hands-on technical savvy, fearless creative risk, and unforgettable storytelling has resulted in a string of groundbreaking television series that have forever changed the American entertainment landscape.

When Abrego and producing partner Mark Cronin launched The Surreal Life in 2003, they did more than propel a new word, celebreality, into the popular vernacular. The show created a whole new genre that Abrego found himself at the forefront of, with hit after hit to show for it. The Surreal Life became the cornerstone of one of the biggest and most successful lineups in all of television: VH1’s vaunted Celebreality Block not only re-invigorated the brand but also carved out a niche for comedic reality-programming that Abrego was more than up to the task to meet in an unprecedented string of hit franchises, including Flavor of Love (3 seasons with Flavor Flav), I Love Money (2 seasons), and Gotti’s Way (2 seasons). Many of these series set multiple VH1 and basic cable ratings records and represent a sustained run of consistent popularity and success that continue today, with programs like ‘Lala’s Full Court Life’ (currently in it’s 4th season), and runaway hit ‘TI and Tiny’s: Family Hustle’ (in it’s 3rd season).

In April of 2008, the Abrego embarked on a new chapter when Endemol USA bought 51% of the company. Through this partnership, he and Cronin continued to build the 51 Minds brand, but now drawing on the advantages that come with the backing of an international production and sales powerhouse. Abrego went on to create and produce programming for a wide range of networks, from E!’s Scouted to CBS’ Same Name to CMT’s Top Secret Recipe and Redneck Island. A one-time producing partner with Joel Silver on NBC’s Next Action Star, Abrego again finds himself working with a scripted producer on Whodunnit?, a reality-based murder mystery series set to premiere on ABC this summer with CSI creator Anthony Zuiker attached. Does Someone Have to Go? premiering in May 2013, represents Abrego’s first partnership with FOX.

Prior to forming his own company, Mr. Abrego traveled the world under Bunim-Murray’s banner, ensuring MTV’s hit Road Rules had its most successful seasons via on-location production in Mexico, New Zealand, Paris, Fiji and Australia. He was a supervising producer on MTV’s Fear, a coordinating producer on ABC’s hit Making the Band, and created Cannonball Run for USA, Surf Girls for MTV, and The Hitchhiker Chronicles for FX. He is a graduate of California State University Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and of the American Association of Producers. He’s earned a reputation among peers and programmers alike as a producer who can create, develop, and most importantly execute original content across a broad spectrum of reality programming.



Ben Samek

- Chief Operations Officer / Executive Producer

Ben Samek started his TV career at MTV and then moved to Bunim Murray Productions in the early days of reality television, producing shows such as FaNatic, Road Rules and The Extreme Challenge. He went on to produce Cannonball Run and later won an Emmy for producing on the third season of The Amazing Race. Ben has been working as a show runner and Executive Producer for Mark and Cris since the early days of Surreal Life. As the 51 Minds grew so did his role, and he now serves as the company’s Chief Operations Officer, overseeing all facets of the company as well as developing ancillary revenue streams in the digital, branded television, and new media arenas.

Rabih Gholam

SVP of Development - Cris Abrego Productions

Over fifteen years in the entertainment industry, Rabih Gholam has developed and produced innovative television programming for major networks and the burgeoning cable market alike. After studying history at Arizona State University, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was accepted into NBC’s prestigious Page Program. Starting his career in late night television at NBC, Gholam went on to work for The Craig Kilborn Show at CBS and, later,Talkshow with Spike Ferestenat at Fox. Over the next eight years, Rabih produced a string of successful, groundbreaking shows, including The Surreal Life, The Mole, and Whose Line Is It Anyway? Subsequent work as an Executive Producer for MTV resulted in a series of hit shows, most notably the pop culture classic The Hills. During his time with 51 Minds, Gholam has overseen development for The X Life, Mario Lopez: Saved By the Baby, La La’s Full Court Wedding, Money Hungry and, most recently, CMT’s Top Secret Recipe and Scouted for E!.

Courtland Cox

SVP of Development - Never Nominated Productions

COURTLAND COX started his career in radio, working as a producer and on-air personality for The Kevin & Bean Show on Los Angeles’ legendary KROQ, and a morning show host on LA’s Y-107 FM. His first foray into television was as a writer on the Comedy Central game show Beat the Geeks. After that, he worked as a writer and producer on game shows for ABC, CBS, MTV, Vh1 and GSN. He has been with 51 Minds Entertainment since 2005 serving as a producer on Surreal Life Fame Games, Charm School starring Mo’Nique and Celebrity Paranormal Project, as a supervising producer on America’s Most Smartest Model and finally as a co-executive producer on Rock of Love, Rock of Love Girls’ Charm School and I love Money. In his current position as SVP of Development for Never Nominated Productions, he works with Mark Cronin creating and developing new shows and formats for a rapidly expanding development slate that includes docu-follow series, game shows, comedic talk shows, competition-elimination shows and scripted-reality hybrid shows.

Tom Costales

- Vice President of Finance

Thomas Costales has been the Company’s Vice President of Finance since 2008.  He began his career as an audit professional at KPMG in Los Angeles.  He has served as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of several large publicly traded international companies.   He has a BA from Loyola University, an MBA in Corporate Finance from the University of Southern California, and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Lyle Smith

- VP of Production

Lyle Smith is VP of Production for 51 Minds Entertainment, Cris Abrego Productions and Never Nominated Productions. Prior to his current position, Lyle worked for over 4 years at 3 Ball Productions, LLC/ Eyeworks USA as Executive in Charge of Production, Director of Production and Line Producer. Lyle has also worked as a Line Producer, Producer, Production Manager and AD for Granada America/ ITV Studios, NBC/ Skycastle Entertainment, Asylum Entertainment and Fox Sports Net.

Anthony Zaldivar

- VP of Post Production

Anthony Zaldivar has been working in the television industry for nearly 25 years.  His experience ranges through almost every genre of broadcast television.  He started his career in LA area News.  From there he has worked on magazine strip shows, game shows, talk, pilots, and many more.  The companies he has worked for include Paramount, ABC, Fox, NBC, Telemundo, PBS, Tribune and many independent production companies.  Anthony joined 51 Minds in 2006.  He now  oversees one of busiest Post Departments in Hollywood, with over 40 series produced in the last 5 years.  Anthony and his team are always looking for new ways to refine the post process to help enhance the producers’ and editors’ creativity.  He is also working to keep 51 Minds at the forefront of the latest technologies in the entertainment field.

Chris Miller

- Director of New Media

Over the past 15 years, Chris Miller has produced over 400 hours of documentary and reality television programming for outlets such as Discovery, A&E, TruTV, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, FOX, VH1, MTV, HGTV, Bravo, Lifetime, and the History Channel.  Just prior to joining 51 Minds, he served as Co-Executive Producer for National Lampoon. In 2006, Miller was appointed at the helm of the New Media division for 51 Minds Entertainment – and has since produced nearly 300 hours of original content for digital platforms for the company. He has been instrumental in the on-air and digital successes of many series across the Viacom television slate.  Miller also serves on the Board of Directors for SoundArt LA, a non-profit organization aimed at providing musical instruments and instruction for at-risk youth in underserved, urban communities.