Cheating Hearts

To get Cheaters, his syndicated weekly hour show, on the air, executive producer Bobby Goldstein dismantled his law practice, sold his home and threw himself into show business. He conceived the idea in what he calls a "eureka moment": He caught his uncle cheating on his aunt.

"I realized the only way to get the show on was to make it myself at great financial risk," he says. "I sold everything I owned: house, businesses, watches."

Five years later, Cheaters
is still going strong, and Goldstein will rerun episodes as a daily strip starting next month. The barter-only show, in which a crack team of private detectives catches philanderers in the act, is cleared in 80% of the country, including The WB 100+ and stations in the Sinclair, Tribune and Raycom groups.

Some of the show's segments leave little to the imagination, keeping Cheaters
confined to late-night slots. Its racy content doesn't attract TV's most upscale viewers. Moreover, due to its controversial nature, regular advertisers won't participate. So the show's ad-sales rep, Mediacast, has been forced to dole out time to direct-response advertisers. Although, at $60,000 per production hour, the show isn't terrifically expensive to produce, without cash license fees or regular advertisers, it still fails to turn a profit.

But it attracts syndication's largest young-adult weekend audience, according to Nielsen's weighted meter-market average. Last February, Cheaters
scored a 2.1 rating among women 18-34 and a 1.2 among men 18-34.

"It is so hard to break through the clutter if you are an independent show," says MG/Perin's Richard Perin, who distributes Cheaters. "When I saw these numbers, they were amazing. And we've built upon it—not because of my staff or my silver tongue but because the show delivers."

biggest claim to fame is reality TV's most infamous moment: It's the only program on which the host has been stabbed. Host Joey Greco has decided to stick with the show, even after taking a knife in the side during a confrontation between lover and cheater in March 2003.

And if Cheaters
doesn't work out, Goldstein can always go into the PI business. "We get about 100,000 requests a year for domestic-relations investigations," he says. "But what I really want to do is make TV programs."

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.