Fox Reality Gets Original

Fox Reality Channel is eyeing a variety of original programming, including a weekly genre-in-review series and a cross-platform show in which “experts” will handicap the fates and fortunes of contestants.

David Lyle, chief operating officer and general manager of Fox Reality, which launched May 24 in some 15 million homes, also said the network is eyeing its own reality competition show, to bow early next year.

“Right now, there’s a six-month lead time. But we’re looking at a number of things, and have to make some decisions in the next two months,” said Lyle.

In the interim, Fox Reality, which counted some 14.4 million DirecTV Inc. subscribers and about 600,000 Insight Communications Corp. customers at launch last Tuesday, is working toward the development of what Lyle called a “weekly panel” that would serve as a review of the genre, replete with “excerpts from the shows and commentary.” Lyle expects this show to bow in late fall.

The network, which also has carriage pacts with EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network, Cox Communications Inc. and Adelphia Communications Corp. that kick in over the next couple of months, is on the lookout for a half-dozen or so proven prognosticators who will be able to handicap the performances of contestants in the upcoming fall slate of reality shows.

“We’re looking for people who have done well in forecasting who will survive or win competitions. We’re interacting with people through our Web site [www.foxreality .com],” said Lyle. “Our goal is to find six or seven people with the power of prediction and put a show together on-air and online.”

Fox Reality is aiming to debut this show to coincide with the fall season.

As the network looks to develop more of its own programming, it is augmenting such genre staples as Joe Millionaire, Last Comic Standing, The Swan and Extreme Dating with outtakes, interviews and never-before-seen footage.

“Viewers are getting a chance to play detectives of sorts. On Last Comic Standing, some of the contestants admit to smoking a strange substance,” said Lyle. “Viewers can try to figure out who looks more mellow than the others.”

On Love Cruise, Lyle said, the added footage also provides insights as to why some contestants advanced.

“There was a lot of action in those cabins. It’s easy to see why some people liked some more than others,” he explained.

Fox Reality is also importing international versions of Temptation Island and introducing American audience to such series Great Britain’s The Villa.

As for the launch, Lyle said things began at 5 p.m. (ET ) on May 24 with a network promo before jumping into Joe Millionaire. “If there were any glitches, the Fox executives didn’t see them because they were a little more interested in the [penultimate episode of the fourth season of] American Idol,” Lyle quipped.

Looking ahead, Lyle said there could be “a couple of surprises” in store with other distributors. “By the end of the calendar year, we should be in 20 million and maybe a few more toward 23 million,” he said.

Fox officials said that only five other networks have reached the 20 million subscriber plateau during their first year: FX (1994); Fox News Channel (1996); Animal Planet (1996); National Geographic Channel (2001); and NFL Network (2004).