New Romance Buds With Dating Shows

At least three projects in once-hot genre court syndication marketplace
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Dating shows and first-run syndication may be getting back together.

Dating shows were one of syndication’s most popular genres in the 1990s and early 2000s, but years of watching scantily clad men and women go on dates to chain restaurants and flirt in hot tubs finally got to viewers, who gradually stopped watching them. The top-rated show, Blind Date, went off the air in 2006 after a seven-year run.

Now the genre is poised to return to syndication, with at least three entries in development.

Trifecta Entertainment is out pitching Geek Meets Girl, a syndicated spinoff of The CW’s Beauty and the Geek, produced by Fox 21 and Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg’s Katalyst Media. Renegade 83—producer of oncepopular dating shows Blind Date and Fifth Wheel—is creating Excused, which CBS Television Distribution hopes to syndicate. And Warner Bros. is developing a show for VH1’s dating guru, Steve Ward, although development on that show has been pushed back because Warner Bros. is busy shopping its talker starring CNN’s Anderson Cooper for fall 2011.

“Dating is a genre that’s been successful in the past, has been rested, and now it’s ready to make a comeback,” says Hank Cohen, CEO of Trifecta Entertainment.

Dating also has remained relatively popular both on network and on cable. ABC’s The Bachelor remains a reality powerhouse, and dating has been a staple of several cable networks, particularly VH1, with shows such as Flavor of Love, I Love New York and Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch.

“There’s a competition element to dating shows in that you wonder ‘will they or won’t they?’ and then you get an immediate answer,” says Bert Salke, Fox 21 president. “You can pop in, and get a beginning, middle and end. To me, romance, relationships and a quick answer adds up to something that will always be around.”

Of the three, Geek Meets Girl currently seems most likely to end up on the air. “It feels like it should be cleared by the end of the year, and then we’ll clear the smaller markets at NATPE [in January],” says Salke.

“The show is basically an individualized version of Beauty and the Geek,” says Cohen. “Each episode is self-contained, with one geek and one girl. They go on one geek-centric date that the geek chooses, and then a makeover expert comes in and makes over the geek. Then they go on a date of the girl’s choosing. In the end, they both decide whether they want to see each other again.”

Salke says that syndication is attractive to Fox 21 because the company can sell the show to TV stations but hold on to all the intellectual property and format rights, which is not the case in cable. For syndicators and TV stations, dating shows represent an inexpensive way to fill time periods.

“There may be a late-fringe opportunity for dating shows, which is probably one reason syndicators are trying them again,” says Bill Carroll, vice president, programming, Katz Television Group Programming. “Syndicators are looking for programs that are affordable to produce.”

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