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Syndication ‘Secret’ Revealed

Mar 26, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Syndicators are getting in on “The Secret.”

Development executives around the television syndication industry have been meeting with agents to bring ideas associated with “The Secret,” a self-help multimedia sensation, from the top of the best-seller lists to a place on the Nielsen ratings charts.

Projects and talent connected to “The Secret” may land in daytime television lineups as early as fall 2008.

At least one company is already negotiating to develop a series based on the “Secret” brand, according to a number of studio executives who asked to remain anonymous. In addition, several prominent names associated with “The Secret’s” book and DVDs, including author James Arthur Ray, are in intense negotiations to bring their own series to the small screen. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and CBS Television Distribution are two of the syndicators that have held meetings with agents representing the title, the executives said.

Not coincidentally, both studios have played central roles in promoting “Secret,” which revolves around a concept labeled “The Law of Attraction,” as well as other ideas connected to the principle. That principle promotes the belief that feelings and thoughts can manifest real-world results. People connected to “The Secret” have appeared on CBS Television Distribution’s “Oprah” and “Montel” shows, as well as Warner Bros.’ “Ellen.”

One breakout name bolstered by the success of “The Secret” is Mr. Ray, president and CEO of James Ray International, a multimillion-dollar corporation dedicated to teaching individuals to create wealth in all areas of their lives: financially, relationally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. Sources say that several syndicators, including Warner Bros. and Twentieth Television, are interested in developing a project with him.

“What I think has been missing in daytime television is that while there’s a lot of talk about the problems that we all have and taking responsibility for them, audiences are looking for more than just that kind of answer,” said Mr. Ray, author of books such as “The Science of Success: How to Attract Prosperity and Create Harmonic Wealth Through Proven Principles.” “They are looking for answers to why are things created as they are created, and whether or not they have the power within them to do something differently.”

Mr. Ray noted that while the sudden interest in and popularity of “the laws of the universe” make them a natural topic of interest for daytime viewers, any series that focuses on the topic would have to be produced properly to be a success.

“The human spirit will not invest itself in mediocrity. That being said, the show has to have high energy and create emotion to connect with audiences,” he said. “Look at shows today that have been successful…their hosts don’t just sit down for interview after interview, they are excited, interact with the audience and engage the human spirit. If we can bring a depth of content that is balanced between practicality and sprit, then I think viewers will respond.”

Representatives of CBS and Warner Bros. declined to comment for this story. “Secret” creator Rhonda Byrne and her Melbourne, Australia-based company, Prime Time Productions, also declined to comment.

For syndicators, spring typically is the beginning of development season for the following year. Should “The Secret” officially land at a distributor, it would put a powerful brand name into the mix for 2008.

The potential series is the latest concept to get a boost from early exposure on existing shows including “Oprah,” where “Dr. Phil,” who specializes in self-help, also got his start.

“Once Oprah set her eyes on this, it opened the door for everyone else to follow. So it’s not surprising that this series would be preparing for a 2008 launch,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television. “There’s been a long tradition of self-help series that have worked in syndication.”

“The Secret” originated last year as a book, Internet download and DVD consisting of a series of interviews and dramatizations illustrating the Law of Attraction. Interviews with so-called teachers, including experts in the fields of quantum physics, psychology, metaphysics, theology, philosophy, finance, feng shui, medicine and personal development, are drafted to substantiate the theory.

Among the higher-profile “teachers” involved with the project are author Bob Proctor, moneymaking and business-building expert John Assaraf, the Rev. Michael Beckwith, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Jack Canfield, psychologist and “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” author John Gray and philosopher James Arthur Ray.

Last week, both book and DVD sales ranked as either No. 1 or No. 2 on Amazon, The New York Times and Border’s best-seller lists. Published reports estimate that the book alone has sold more than 5 million copies.

Any TV series based on “The Secret” would be produced by Ms. Byrne, whose company has produced a number of programs that have aired on Australia’s top three channels. Prime Time Productions’ previous projects there include “The World’s Greatest Commercials,” reality series “Great Escapes,” “Australia Behaving Badly,” “Marry Me” and “Loves Me, Loves Me Not.”

The DVD version of “The Secret,” made for about $3 million, was originally developed with Australia’s Nine Network before complications channeled the series toward alternative distribution. A Hollywood-backed sequel is now reportedly in the works.