FiOS, Advertiser 'Bond' Over Unique Local Arrangement

Potential new reality program would bring fresh original content to telco

A new reality show about a colorful bail bondsman would fit
right in amidst the unscripted programs about bounty hunters,
exterminators and extreme pack rats on, say, A&E. In fact, The
Real Ride to Freedom
, set at Freedom Bail Bonding in Fairfax, Va., is preparing
to air on a prime local Verizon FiOS channel—representing a unique
arrangement between a marketer, telco and
cable giant in the Washington, D.C., region.
Freedom Bail Bonding principal Dave Gambale,
a hulking, tattooed former Marine, looks
and acts the part of a reality star, and the cast
of characters that visit his storefront in search
of bail money is colorful as well. “People have
been telling me for years, you need a reality
show,” says Gambale, 49. “People would not
believe what happens in there.”

It’s uncharted territory for Gambale, his executive
producer and FiOS. The Real Ride to
’s premiere on FiOS’ channel 1, known
as FiOS1, is slated for 9:30 p.m. on June 22.
But people on the telco’s end stress that managers
must first OK the final cut and make
sure the show passes muster with FiOS decency
standards, which one sales rep says are
comparable to those at a basic cable network.
It is not a done deal.

The venture came to be when Faith Poe,
who runs Fairfax-based Pure Advertising,
pitched the idea to Gambale, a longtime client.
Gambale had used primarily Spanishlanguage
radio spots and signage at community
events to promote his company. But Poe,
seeing an outsized character in her client,
suggested he put his marketing spend into a
reality program.

“On any given day, it’s straight-up chaos,” Poe says of Freedom Bail
Bonding. “I said, ‘Dave, why don’t you have your own reality show?’”

Pure Advertising is buying the half-hour slot from FiOS. Poe, a former
account executive at CBS Media Group, says Gambale has put up
$2,000 a month, while a trio of sponsors—criminal defense attorneys,
naturally—are paying the same, for an $8,000 monthly budget. “Their
messaging is, if you’re in a jam, call us and we’ll defend you,” she says.

Z Productions produces the show, and Poe is an executive producer.
They hope to air The Real Ride every other Wednesday night on FiOS1
for three to six months. Poe says they’ll shop the program to a traditional
cable network, such as Discovery or A&E, with national distribution.

According to Poe, FiOS reaches around 350,000 households in the
D.C. market. FiOS1 airs a mix of news and weather and high school and
college sports, with pro sports on now and then too. Gannett’s WUSA
Washington produces a pair of local news cut-ins twice a day, Monday
through Friday. Other clients have bought half-hours on the channel
before; churches like the slot for airing their
services, says a sales rep.

But reality shows are a different story. “It
would be groundbreaking—if it actually
happens,” says the rep, who asked not to be
named until the deal is done. “It’s an interesting
story—I hope it works.”

Verizon FiOS and Comcast have a sales
partnership in Washington and several other
markets where both offer TV service. Two
years ago, the pair announced that Comcast
Spotlight would sell time for FiOS in at least
10 markets, with Comcast’s then-COO Steve
Burke calling it “a natural fi t for both companies,”
and a similar arrangement to what Comcast
had with other video distributors.

Gambale, the subject of a recent Washington
Post Magazine
feature, offers his background
on, including his
boxing exploits, his lengthy Marine career
and his start in the rough-and-tumble world of
bail bonds. “‘Gunny’ Gambale was a Marines’
Marine who pushed his guys to the breaking
point, but underneath that Leatherneck’s
tough skin was a man with a huge heart and
true character who would do anything to help
his fellow man,” his bio reads.

Rounding out the cast are a handful of coworkers
that Gambale describes as a young Italian, a tough Dominican
girl and a tough redneck. Gambale’s taste in reality TV includes Discovery’s
man-against-the-elements program Survivorman. The straighttalking
bondsman says he hopes the show offers an honest depiction of
a misunderstood industry (“we’re here to help people,” he says), while
also turning up new clients for his business.

While A&E’s Dog the Bounty Hunter shows a man chasing down fugitives
around the globe, The Real Ride is more of a workplace drama
(emphasis on drama) depicting a line of work that, unlike exterminators,
pawn shops and repo men, hasn’t had its definitive reality show yet.

“I don’t think there’s anything else like it out there,” says Gambale. “It’s
total, all-the-time drama.”

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