With seven seasons under its belt, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” is still growing—particularly in developing alternative revenue streams beyond advertising.
“Loser’s” consumer-product lines, which include items such as CDs, weight-loss plans, DVDs, workout equipment and now a Nintendo Wii video game, has garnered around $75 million in revenue, NBC said.
The game, announced last week, will use the Nintendo Wii’s balance board, and will track users’ weight and nutrition goals. “Loser” trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels will be prominently featured in-game.
As shows and producers contend with shrinking advertising revenue and tighter budgets, “Loser” is shaping up to be a model for programs whose product lines might outlive the programs that spawned them.
Mark Koops, managing director and co-head of domestic television at Reveille, co-created and executive produces “Loser.” He said the show was originally conceived as a series about plastic surgery, but was reworked to use the “old-fashioned” way to lose weight.
In conceiving the show with Reveille founder Ben Silverman, part of the pitch was to mold the program into the 21st century version of Weight Watchers, Mr. Koops said.
“That remains our goal and aspiration,” he said. “I think we’re on the path to fulfilling that.”
They’re shooting for that goal with enterprises including BiggestLoserClub.com, a subscription service that allows users to track their eating and exercise patterns online. Mr. Koops said that while subscription numbers tend to fluctuate, currently around 50,000 people have memberships.
There’s also a partnership with home-shopping channel QVC, which brings the recent winners of “Loser” on to promote goods.
Mr. Koops is quick to point out that the creative quality of the television show, produced by Reveille, 25/7 Productions and 3 Ball Productions, is the most important part of the business. Alternative revenue streams, including consumer products, brand integration, and international sales aren’t the main focus, he said.
“They all come secondary to a television show that resonates with its audience,” Mr. Koops said.
Still, the allure of the consumer product opportunities is growing, especially during rough economic times.
Kim Niemi, senior VP of NBC Universal Television, DVD, Music and Consumer Products Group said additional cash-flow streams can help nudge a show to air, and can bring momentum to a program.
“People are looking for those opportunities, but the creative has to drive it,” she noted.
Ms. Niemi said she’s not concerned about overextending the franchise because NBC Universal and Reveille are careful to apply the “Biggest Loser” brand only to products that fit the show’s ethos.
“It’s not about putting ‘Biggest Loser’ on something that exists,” Ms. Niemi said, “but making sure it fits with the philosophy of what we’re teaching people.”
While “Biggest Loser’s” finale in mid-May posted its highest ratings since 2006, it’s not beyond the realm of the possible that the show’s offshoots would survive past its TV run.
Mr. Koops said licensees understand the possibility of cancellation. Those companies trust the brand enough, he said, to sign multiyear deals with Reveille—despite the lack of a long-term official commitment from NBC.
“From my view, I think it’s set up and has the potential to have a long shelf life,” Ms. Niemi said.