Programming

Reality TV Weighs In Big-Time

Fox eyes extra large trend with 'More to Love' 3/30/2009 02:16:00 PM Eastern

Posted at 1:00 a.m. ET

Reality television is starting to reflect one of the, er, biggest truths about America: We have a weight problem.

Fox is eyeing a dating show from The Bachelor executive producer Mike Fleiss tentatively titled More to Love, which endeavors to find love for a “real-size” people. It is billed in a casting notice as a “romantic competition of love and seduction” in which “one big and beautiful woman will become the envy of all others and attain the love of a lifetime.” The notice says that the show is looking for “curvy” and “voluptuous” women.

More to Love is the latest among a growing number of TV series executives are betting on—and that viewers seem to be responding to—that take into account the U.S. obesity epidemic. Last month, for example, Lifetime quickly renewed freshman series DietTribe, in which a group of friends tries losing weight together. In addition, Oxygen is teeing up Dance Your Ass Off, a weight-loss dance competition hosted by plus-sized Broadway star Marissa Jaret Winokur, for summer.

These shows follow the huge success of the weight-conscious series The Biggest Loser, which in its seventh cycle on NBC is posting some of its best ratings ever. Also having some success is Style Network's Ruby, a show following a severely obese woman trying to lose weight that marked the network's most-watched premiere when it debuted in November 2008. Ruby also helped spark a shift in programming focus at Style from the runway to real people.

These shows are more relevant than ever to growing numbers of viewers, and are proving to be important marketing vehicles with potentially lucrative margins for the networks that air them.

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control's Website. While the increase has leveled off in the last few years, 34%—a little more than one third—of U.S. adults aged 20 and over are obese, according to the CDC.

Pound for pound, reality shows can be produced cheaper than any other genre and yet draw as large an audience as any. While reality may not always command premium CPMs, the category provides some of the most natural product integration opportunities. (Biggest Loser consistently ranks among the shows with the most product placements.)

What's more, shows with transformational and healthful themes represent a chance for a wide range of marketers to get real sales-driving messages out, says Shari Anne Brill, senior VP and director of programming for media buyer Carat.

“Anything that will help people to get to a healthier place, those advertisers will be winners,” Brill says, noting opportunities for food marketers as well as sellers of athletic gear, running shoes, apparel and water. “It just runs the gamut. If it's done right, it has a very positive message and a halo effect with advertisers associated with it.”

Fox and Warner Horizon Television, where Fleiss's production company is based, declined to comment.

March