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Bravo Becomes Cirque du Soleils TV Home

New York-Bravo, The Film and Arts Network and Cirque du Soleil have signed an expansive $20 million, three-year deal that includes the creation of a weekly variety series and other original programming, officials said last week.

As part of its multifaceted strategic alliance with the performing-arts troupe, Bravo will also be one of five official sponsors of Dralion, the show Cirque du Soleil is now touring in the U.S., through 2003. The Dralion tour kicked off recently in Denver.

The overall partnership calls for Cirque du Soleil Images and TVA International, a Canadian TV distributor, to produce a 13-part, hour-long variety series that will debut on Bravo in the first quarter of next year. The series will have a $10 million production budget, according to Frances Berwick, senior vice president of programming and production for Bravo.

She said the network is "excited to be associated with another leading arts brand," Cirque du Soleil, which, like Bravo, tries to be "relevant and nonelitist." The partnership is another example of Bravo's commitment to expanding its original programming, according to Berwick.

In fact, Bravo has several new original series set to debut. The Museum of Television and Radio: Influences premieres in August, while new program Aria and Pasta joins the network's lineup in November.

In addition to the variety show, the Cirque du Soleil partnership includes the creation of three specials, the first of which is a $1.3 million, 90-minute TV program of Dralion, which will air on Bravo in December. Dralion has a pay-per-view window in September, via TVN Entertainment Corp., before it goes to Bravo.

In the Heart of Dralion, a show on the making of Dralion, is scheduled to air in conjunction with the television special.

Also under the Bravo-Cirque du Soleil partnership, a one-hour, behind-the-scenes documentary on the performing-arts troupe will air on Bravo Profiles in the fourth quarter of next year. And the partnership will create special broadband content for Bravo to offer to cable operators.

Bravo and Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil have had an ongoing relationship, with the cable network airing the special Quidam late last year.

"There was a history with Bravo," said Peter Wagg, managing director of Cirque du Soleil's multimedia division and producer of the new series for Bravo.

The vaudeville-type variety show is meant to be "family-driven entertainment," from music to acrobatics to dance and comedy sketches, according to Wagg.

"Just like Ed Sullivan used to take you from one thing to the next," he added.

Cirque du Soleil has "a unique base" from which to create the variety show, because it conducts auditions around the world looking for talent for the circus troupe. For its variety series, it can turn to the performers who show up at those auditions, and can also work with talented artists who may not want to sign up for a three-year run with Cirque du Soleil, Wagg said.

The first episode of the variety show, which will have several hosts, will be shot Oct. 20 in Montreal.

As part of its sponsorship of the Cirque du Soleil tour, Bravo will be mentioned in all tour advertising, including direct-mail pieces, and in all publicity and promotional materials for the tour.

Bravo general manager Ed Carroll declined to comment on how much the network was paying for its sponsorship, but did say the total value of the programming-marketing alliance with Cirque du Soleil was $20 million.