Strike Synergy

Fox Reality Channel and MyNetworkTV Team Up
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While the writers’ strike is forcing networks to rethink their development and production models, two News Corp. TV assets may have stumbled upon an alternative. The broadcast channel MyNetworkTV and cable’s Fox Reality Channel have pooled their resources to produce, market and sell Paradise Hotel 2.

The series is the steamy sequel to a reality show that did well when the Fox broadcast network aired it in 2003.

The collaboration was already in the works before the strike. Neither of the two channels alone could have afforded to produce a sequel with the level of quality of the original Fox show. By teaming up, they saved money and were able to make the show for just under $1 million an episode, the nets’ execs say.

Premiering Feb. 4, ParadiseHotel 2 puts 11 sexy singles at a secluded resort and rewards them with cash as long as they attract opposite-sex roommates. New episodes will debut Mondays on both networks—a tamer one on MyNetwork at 9 p.m. and then a more mature version (the show is filled with hook-ups and other such adult action) on Fox Reality Channel at 10 p.m. PT and 1 a.m. ET. Promos on billboards, in print and on TV will bear both networks’ branding.

“This wouldn’t have happened on MyNetwork if it were not for Fox Reality,” says MyNetworkTV President Greg Meidel. “The sum of our parts added up to a better show than if we were to just do it ourselves.”

To be sure, corporate sibling networks—whether broadcast to cable, cable to broadcast or cable to cable—have capitalized on synergies in the past: During the summer, broadcast networks like ABC and NBC often run their cable brethren’s shows.

But the MyNetwork/Fox Reality deal is a first of its kind in terms of networks pooling resources to make and sell a show. It’s a feat considering that networks with the same corporate parents often have widely divergent and often competitive business strategies.

The move comes at a time when networks are rethinking their production models because of the strike. CBS chief Leslie Moonves has said that his broadcast network could run Showtime shows, while NBC is reportedly considering running some from its USA cable network.

Now, with the writers’ strike making reality an ever-more-valuable commodity, Paradise Hotel 2 has a chance to stand out. That’s good news for Fox Reality, which is looking to grow its footprint beyond the 35 million subscribers it already has.

“[The strike] will enhance the reputation of reality and that will lead to greater distribution as time goes by,” says Fox Reality President David Lyle. “For us, it will probably be a bonus for our direct relationship with the audience during troubled times.”

The networks’ pooled resources were a blessing during the production, which grew arduous due to weather conditions and the untimely death of one of the contestants. A hurricane and several tropical storms swept off the Gulf Coast during the first week of production and washed out all of the roads and the villa where the program is set. Then, several weeks after production ended, one of the contestants -– Nathan Clutter –- was killed in a climbing accident. (His family and the producers decided to keep his scenes in the full run of the episodes).

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