Reveille Toots ‘Club’s’ Horn

Nov 8, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Art continues to imitate life for the team behind reality series “The Restaurant” and “Blow Out.”

Despite the unique challenges of starting a business and chronicling the process for a reality show, producer Reveille has made a cottage industry of making such shows. Bravo announced a deal to renew “Blow Out,” and Reveille has reunited with some of its previous partners for “The Club,” which premieres Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. on Spike TV.

Like Reveille’s “Restaurant” and “Blow Out,” “The Club” features integrated advertising and product placement. The Spike show follows the behind-the-bar activity at a year-old Las Vegas nightclub.

Reveille founder Ben Silverman, who also serves as creator and an executive producer of “The Club,” originally said he planned to shoot for six weeks. Last week he was in the tenth week of shooting. The extra shooting has added expense to the project, but because he’s following only one remaining story line, he’s using a much smaller crew.

“A huge amount of real-life stuff happened in the middle of our shoot that has caused us to keep going to follow the stories through,” he said.

If the last-minute drama keeps people tuning in, that would be good for Spike. The network wants to capitalize on the ratings for reruns of “CSI,” which also is set in Las Vegas and serves as a lead-in for “The Club.” It would also be good for DaimlerChrysler, liquor distributor Allied Domecq and other sponsors of the show, whose products are used by people in the program.

Mr. Silverman said he expects the trend of creating shows that include sponsors will continue to grow. “I’m very confident that done intelligently, the audience gets the joke. They know these shows are financed through advertising.”

Although a carmaker and a bar might seem an unlikely mix, Mr. Silverman pointed out that the cars are used by the club’s promoters and not by its patrons.

Unlike with scripted shows, sponsors have limited control over how products get used. “We are not attempting to control the environment,” said David Karraker, VP of communications for Allied Domecq. That means that while Allied Domecq brands such as Malibu Rum, Stolichnaya vodka and Maker’s Mark bourbon are prominently displayed in the bar and integrated into some story lines; customers are free to order what they want.

“We work with the producers to make sure our products are shown responsibly,” he said, adding that Allied is looking to do more product placement and integrated advertising, but for now can do so only on cable.

The other sponsor of the show is Heineken beer.

Reveille is a joint venture between NBC Universal Television and Mr. Silverman. The company produces “The Club,” along with Full Circle Entertainment, a company formed in February by Robert Riesenberg, who was an executive producer of “The Restaurant.” Full Circle specializes in shows that provide marketing platforms for major sponsors.

Mr. Silverman said the business model for the show is a barter deal, the same as when he worked with NBC on “The Restaurant.” The producers are selling half the ad time to the integrated sponsors, and the network is selling the rest. Reveille and Full Circle fund the production.

Mr. Riesenberg said producing reality shows has gotten more expensive. “In order to get these shows picked up by the network the expectation on their part is higher production value,” he said.

Mr. Silverman estimated that this type of reality show costs $600,000 to $1.2 million per episode to produce. He said that by producing 10 episodes of “The Club,” compared with six episodes of “The Restaurant,” some costs can be amortized more efficiently.

Creatively, the shows are also getting more sophisticated. “We have to be able to tell multiple stories, much as the way a drama is constructed,” Mr. Riesenberg said. “It takes a lot of paying attention to these people and how their lives evolve.”

Coincidentally, executives at the network said they had been wanting to do a show about a nightclub for a long time but hadn’t been able to afford it. Since the show was acquired in a barter deal, “I’m not aware of what their complete budget wound up being,” said Kevin Kay, executive VP of programming and production at Spike. “It was way more than we would have spent on the show had we decided to do it ourselves.”

When the network was doing research about what men like, it found “they like shows about making stuff,” Mr. Kay said. “They want to know what it takes to make a business work.” In “The Club,” “It’s really about an entrepreneur trying to make it in a world that’s really competitive and tough.”

Mr. Kay added he thinks that unlike reality shows with elimination formats, “The Club” will repeat well. He’s also hoping that if the show is successful, there will be a “The Club 2,” set in a bar in a different city.

“The Club” is one of four shows Spike plans to launch this week to take advantage of the ratings of “CSI,” which helped make Spike a top 10 cable network in prime time in October. The others are “I Hate My Job,” hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, “Hey! Spring of Trivia,” a quiz show from Japan, and “Untold Stories,” a sports documentary series.

While Sin City is filled with less-than-wholesome pastimes, Mr. Silverman is not concerned that the show will have content issues. “We make sure the show is consistent with those constituents’ desires,” he said.

Spike has other programs in development, including more reality shows, reality comedies in the vein of “Joe Schmo” and even a drama series to take advantage of the success of “CSI,” Mr. Kay said.