By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/21/2004 7:00:00 PM
TV stations have courted many dating shows, but it was love at first sight with Universal's Blind Date. After five years in syndication, Blind Date remains the top dating show. Add in its run on Spike TV, and it earns a 1.7 national household rating in the February sweeps.
Warner Bros.'ElimiDate is second at 1.6, followed by Universal's The 5thWheel at 1.3. Twentieth's Ex-Treme Dating, which premiered nationally last June, is fourth at 1.2.
The most attractive part of the dating emporium, most of which air in late-night slots, are their demos: All fare best among adults 18-34, but the key ripple is that they weight toward men. "Most dating shows skew heavily female, so already the male composition gives us a huge advantage," says Steve Rosenberg, president of Universal Domestic Television. "The 5th Wheel," he adds, "has the youngest median age of any first-run strip," except animated shows.
Want proof of their success? They've been cloned. The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, Average Joe, and For Love or Money are all twists on their syndicated predecessors. "Dating shows are not unique anymore because the networks seized on a successful formula," says one industry analyst. "All factors considered, these are holding up pretty well."
Especially Blind Date. While the genre's overall ratings have declined about 12%, the show has remained fairly steady, even with so many imitators. When Blind Date premiered in fall 1999, dating was nothing new to TV (remember The Dating Game?), but it was the first show to take viewers on the date. Long before The Bachelor started giving out roses, Blind Date set up couples. One resulted in a marriage.
Eventually, other networks followed suit. Warner Bros. launched ElimiDate in fall 2001. Blind Date's corporate cousin, 5th Wheel, rolled on board in fall 2002, and Twentieth tried out Ex-Treme Dating in June 2003. That show went out of production in November, but stations and FX continue to air it in reruns. Other syndicators have tried their hand at dating, but Paramount's Rendez-view and Sony's Shipmates didn't click. Even one-time genre leader Warner Bros.' Change of Heart finally left the air last year.
Not every effort scores, but dating shows are staying in the game.
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