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A Win-Win for ‘Biggest Loser’

Products Line Means Added Revenue

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.

Comments (2)

Brenda:

I am very pleased that the BL show producers are doing well. It is a great program. I do not think there are very many great programs on regular t.v. This was the first season I started watching BL...partly because my Aunt and cousin from Michigan were on the show. My Aunt eventually won the prize and title. It was a great show to watch. These contestants literally transform their bodies and lives at the same time. I love how the producers pick just the right mix of people and personalities. And how these contestants compete with each other and against each other...while encouraging each other at the same time. The final group develop an energy and bond that is great to watch. I had so many of my friends here in South Carolina watching it for the first time and "getting hooked" on it. We can not wait for the new season. My kids also watch the show. And although my kids do not have any weight problems because they eat right and play tennis 4-5 days a week. I honestly think it helped them develop a compassion for people who have weight problems. The BL program shows how hard having that extra weight can be for people, both emotionally and physically. I guess you can tell I am a fan. Also, I cannot forget to mention how important Jillian and Bob are to this show. They make the show!! And I can not even say which one is my favorite. I love them both. It was great seeing Bobs 'sensitive' side this season, when the Tonga boys had to switch team. Jillian too, when Laura hurt herself...it was very sad and I could see how Jillian was so very upset by it, as well. I was so thrilled to meet them when we went to LA for the finally show. They are such nice people and they seem so genuine both on an off the tv. That is so important in this show. I really believe their sincerity comes through. You can even tell when they are not so fond of someone. But that all makes sense, if you put that many people together...different ideas, values and habits...not everyone is going to enjoy spending time with each other, including the trainers. But it is good the show does not overly sensationalize that part of this show. It is still very focused...healthy eating, weight loss and excercise. Thanks for producing a wonderful program and keep up the good work...(I am a Michigan transplant) and you have lots of fans here in Charleston South Carolina!

The Biggest Loser certainly seems to resonate with a lot of people. As the creator and owner of a healthly lifestyle-based online weight loss program myself (the TensDiet), I'm especially glad to see an emphasis on nutrition and fitness rather than crash dieting and diet pills. It's unfortunate that the weight loss results are unrealistic in the time frame that the contestants on the show achieve - I think that sets people up for disappointment when they try to follow along at home. The average person can't spend the number of hours each day focusing solely on weight loss efforts. But, overall, the show is helping to shed a lot of attention on the obesity problems faced by nearly 2/3 of the U.S. population.

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