Lime Pictures' Tony Wood and All3Media's Ruth Wrigley said that they originally pitched the idea for the reality soap to Channel 4, but they were snubbed.
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, the TOWIE bosses said: "We went to Channel 4 first. We pitched it as Big Brother meets Hollyoaks.
"It's a difficult thing to explain and they thought it would be like The Family."
Wrigley also revealed that the original plan for the show was for it to be based in Bournemouth and that it should focus on the lives of surfers.
Speaking about the show's breakout success, she added: "There was a whole generation of viewers who knew how reality TV worked... this was a natural progression.
"Audiences got it and ten years earlier they wouldn't."
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