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TLC Expands Range With New Offerings

Nov 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

To avoid becoming a network of shows that clone the redecorating success of “Trading Spaces,” The Learning Channel is planning new programs that display a broad range of interests.
The shows hitting the air in this quarter and the next address topics ranging from contemporary employment to ancient history. New science shows also are being considered.
While “Trading Spaces” has helped provide a weekend launching pad for new shows, including “What Not to Wear,” “We have to appeal to different people with different shows on different nights,” Roger Marmet, VP, programming, at TLC said. At the same time, TLC remains a nonfiction network-devoted to making subjects relatable to viewers.
While the home may have been a preoccupation for viewers over the past few years, Discovery Communications’ TLC is betting that the job is at least as interesting.
One new show set in the workplace is called “Back to the Floor.” Its six episodes feature top executives from six companies around the country going back to the shop floor, working the counters or going out into the field with the troops. Executives profiled come from Loews Hotels, Estee Lauder, California Pizza Kitchen, Universal Orlando, Club Med and Song Airlines. The show is set to premiere March 10 and air Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
A second show, tentatively titled “Help Wanted,” is more of a reality/competition series. In the show, applicants submit their resumes for an employment position and compete for the job. They are put through challenges that measure job-based and basic skills. The boss and a host will oversee the process and decide week by week which person gets hired.
In December TLC will televise the world premiere of “Ancient Egyptians,” a miniseries telling the stories of everyday people who lived thousands of years ago. The first two episodes air Dec. 7; the next two air Dec. 8. The series features a Nile basin recreated with digital effects and actors who speak the ancient form of Egyptian. Stories of life in the army and the trial of a grave robber are among the episodes ripped from real hieroglyphics. (The TLC Web site will give viewers an opportunity to see what their names look like in hieroglyphs.)
Mr. Marmet said the object is not to humiliate the contestants or stir up job anxiety among viewers.
That nonthreatening approach to reality programming has proved very attractive to advertisers, Mr. Marmet said. The network is virtually sold-out for the fourth quarter, he said. In part, that will fuel an increase in the network’s programming budget, which is currently being studied by the Discovery Communications board.
The network’s level of development and production already is high, Mr. Marmet said. TLC this fall is launching more shows than ever in its history, he said.
In October the series “Resident Life,” telling the story of medical interns at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, launched in prime time, while specials, including “America’s Ghost Hunters” and “Extreme Machines: O’Hare Airport” and “Pact With the Devil,” will premiere this month and next month.
Two more series, “In a Fix,” “Rides” and “For Better or for Worse,” launch in January.
As for “Trading Spaces,” it’s getting set for a British invasion this month, when cast members from the U.K. version, “Changing Rooms,” will appear on the show. There’s also a Thanksgiving Day “Trading Spaces” marathon, including a special premiere episode.
The network has unlimited rights to the series and plans to keep it running indefinitely.
“We’ll keep coming up with twists and stunts,” Mr. Marmet said. When the series is seven years old, “We may need to tweak the format.” Even a powerhouse such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has been tweaked many times in its long run. “That’s not where we’re at yet,” Mr. Marmet said.
The “Trading Spaces” special featuring a $100,000 prize was the highest-rated cable show among 18 to 49 viewers during October, drawing a 5.5 rating in the demographic.
TLC tied for the second-highest-rated cable networks among 18 to 49 viewers during October and was up 13 percent from Oct. 2002.