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Litton Makes ‘Date’

Apr 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In a move that could reignite the once-hot market for syndicated dating shows, Litton Entertainment scored a deal with MTV and Reveille to distribute the off-MTV run of “Date My Mom.”

The series, which Litton executives plan to launch in broadcast syndication starting next year, ranked as one of MTV’s top dating shows, with three seasons and 100 episodes in the can.

“‘Date My Mom’ is an exciting opportunity for us,” said Dave Morgan, president and CEO of Litton Entertainment. “It quickly established itself as a leader in its genre, but a lot of audiences have never had exposure to the series because it has only aired on cable. I think this is a terrific program for syndication.”

The reality series debuted in 2004 on MTV and quickly grew in ratings.

The premise features a contestant who has to decide which of three people to date by going out with the potential dates’ mothers. The person then would try to discover everything he or she could about the potential love interest while out with the mom. In the end, the decision is made based on the person’s experiences with the parent and the contestant finally gets to see the date.

The move fits in with Litton’s recent strategy of targeting a brand or branded series and expanding its programming library around that concept, whether it’s “Baywatch,” or “NASCAR Angels.”

Reality dating series in syndication had a heyday at the beginning of the decade when series such as “Blind Date,” “Elimidate,” “The Fifth Wheel” and others carved a nice slice of the ratings pie, hovering around a 2.0 mark on a regular basis. In recent years, however, the category became oversaturated with new shows, with as many as seven series on the air at one point, including “Change of Heart,” “Shipmates,” “Ex-treme Dating” and “Rendez-View.”

The genre has since slowly died back, with only repeats of “Blind Date” currently on the air.

“If the show is being targeted for late fringe, where there is always a need for new product, there is a real shot at success,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television. “The relationship show was once very successful in that daypart, but the sheer number of shows and lack of distinction between them led to its downtrend. ‘Date My Mom’ could mark a successful return of the category.”

Tapping established cable franchises for syndication is a trend that continues to grow. “South Park” and “Sex and the City” were among the first series to be successfully syndicated; recently, MGM picked up the rights to distribute “Reno 911” in syndication for 2007. Within the unscripted category, October Moon sold MTV’s “The Real World” in 2000 and “Road Rules” in 2002.

Reality series, however, are sold as syndicated strips relatively infrequently, whether they originate on cable or on a network. Many tend to have shorter runs, so they don’t have enough completed episodes to fulfill stations’ daily needs. In addition, many are serialized and/or competitions, which generally means asking more of a regular commitment from viewers than station executives expect their audience to bear. With competition shows, the suspense may be killed because viewers already know the outcome.

Still, unscripted series have found measured success in syndication as a strip on stations. “Fear Factor” and “American Idol Rewind” are among recent examples. Also, NBC Universal has been experimenting with episodes of Bravo hit “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” as a programming replacement for the canceled “Megan Mullally Show” in some markets.

Producer Reveille was launched in 2002 by Ben Silverman. In addition to “Date My Mom,” the company produces “The Office” (NBC), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “Ugly Betty” (ABC), “House of Boateng” (Sundance Channel), “30 Days” (FX), “Blow Out” (Bravo), “Bound for Glory” (ESPN), “Nashville Star” (USA) and “The Restaurant” (NBC).