‘iVillage in the City?’

Women’s content and community website iVillage announced Monday that it has inked a deal to develop a television show about dating, tentatively called “iDate,” to be sold to cable stations.

Although the format is still under development, the concept is that the show would follow couples from their first online connection to a live meeting on the show. Before their on-camera introduction, viewers would be treated to highlights from their Internet courtship, including e-mails, online chats and postings on message boards. The show also might follow the relationships past the first televised meeting.

“It’s a more intelligent version of reality shows like “The Bachelor” and Elim-a-Date,” said iVillage spokesperson Carl Fischer. The show may launch in the fall 2003 season or in January 2004.

Producers may rely on iVillage’s staff of moderators to choose show
participants, Fischer said. “On some of the other dating shows,” he said, “people seem to be doing it as more of a career booster than a relationship match. This will be a little different. We’ll look at what people are saying, are they really interested in each other? You can kind of tell when
people are having a genuine conversation.”

International talent agency William Morris acted as matchmaker between
iVillage and TV production company Berman/Jacobs on the deal. According to Fischer,
Berman/Jacobs will attempt to pre-sell the show to cable stations, then use
that money to produce pilots, which iVillage said would leave it with no downside in the
plan. Because iVillage archives all interactions including online chat, it
could make use of its existing backup infrastructure to find such content
for the show.

The iVillage Relationships channel features original content such as
dating tips, message boards and a link to a co-branded online personals
service produced by Match.com. iVillage wouldn’t confirm that Match.com
would be its content partner for the proposed cable show, but acknowledged
that it had spoken to its partner about the production deal with
Berman/Jacobs.

The plan is the latest move by the New York-based women’s portal and network to find new e-commerce and fee-based revenues to help it reach profitability. Recently, the company added a storefront that sells sexual intimacy products as part of its e-commerce lineup.

Although iVillage’s first quarter 2003 revenues were down, at $12.6
million, compared to $15.1 million for the first quarter 2002 and $13.7
million for the fourth quarter 2002, its net losses shrunk more. The company
reported a net loss for the first quarter of 2003 of $6.1 million, compared
a net loss of $17.9 million for the same period a year ago. During the fourth quarter of 2002, iVillage reported a net loss of $7.5 million.

The company doesn’t break out revenue it receives from online personals, and wouldn’t disclose terms
of its deal with Berman/Jacobs, except to say that it would share in the
profits from the show.

This is not iVillage’s first voyage into television. It also produces
The Newborn Channel, a satellite closed circuit television network sent to
approximately 1,050 hospitals in the U.S.

Chairman and CEO Doug McCormick
was formerly CEO of the Lifetime cable network, and Fischer said McCormick
and other staffers with cable backgrounds would be involved in developing
the project.

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