Dating Service

TV stations have courted many dating shows, but it was love at first sight with Universal's Blind Date. After five years in syndication, Blind Date
remains the top dating show. Add in its run on Spike TV, and it earns a 1.7 national household rating in the February sweeps.

Warner Bros.'ElimiDate
is second at 1.6, followed by Universal's The 5thWheel
at 1.3. Twentieth's Ex-Treme Dating, which premiered nationally last June, is fourth at 1.2.

The most attractive part of the dating emporium, most of which air in late-night slots, are their demos: All fare best among adults 18-34, but the key ripple is that they weight toward men. "Most dating shows skew heavily female, so already the male composition gives us a huge advantage," says Steve Rosenberg, president of Universal Domestic Television. "The 5th Wheel," he adds, "has the youngest median age of any first-run strip," except animated shows.

Want proof of their success? They've been cloned. The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, Average Joe, and For Love or Money
are all twists on their syndicated predecessors. "Dating shows are not unique anymore because the networks seized on a successful formula," says one industry analyst. "All factors considered, these are holding up pretty well."

Especially Blind Date. While the genre's overall ratings have declined about 12%, the show has remained fairly steady, even with so many imitators. When Blind Date
premiered in fall 1999, dating was nothing new to TV (remember The Dating Game?), but it was the first show to take viewers on the date. Long before The Bachelor
started giving out roses, Blind Date
set up couples. One resulted in a marriage.

Eventually, other networks followed suit. Warner Bros. launched ElimiDate
in fall 2001. Blind Date's corporate cousin, 5th Wheel, rolled on board in fall 2002, and Twentieth tried out Ex-Treme Dating
in June 2003. That show went out of production in November, but stations and FX continue to air it in reruns. Other syndicators have tried their hand at dating, but Paramount's Rendez-view
and Sony's Shipmates
didn't click. Even one-time genre leader Warner Bros.' Change of Heart
finally left the air last year.

Not every effort scores, but dating shows are staying in the game.

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.