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NBC Universal Sells ‘Real Housewives’ to NBC-owned Stations

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has sold Bravo’s unscripted series The Real Housewives as a one-hour syndicated strip for fall 2010 to NBC and Hearst television station groups, according to multiple sources. The syndicator is now pitching the show to other station groups.

The show is being offered on an all-barter basis with 7 ½ minutes of local advertising in each episode for the stations to sell, and 7 ½ minutes of national advertising time for NBCU to sell. NBCU spokespersons would neither comment nor confirm.

"Bravo's been doing some really smart programming," says Emerson Coleman, Hearst's VP of programming. "They have a created a compelling real-life soap opera with strong branding and genuine buzz. We think the show has a promising future."

By next fall, Bravo will have produced 100-plus episodes of the unscripted series, which thus far has taken place with different groups of housewives in Southern California’s Orange County, New York City, New Jersey and Atlanta.

Next up, Bravo promises The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C., although the NBCU-owned cable network has yet to publish an air date for the new season. Season two of The Real Housewives of Atlanta currently airs on Bravo and, as in most seasons, the catfights have been plentiful.

Real Housewives has been a hit for Bravo, with the June finale of this summer’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey reaching 4.6 million viewers. That episode also was TV’s most-watched program that night among adults 18-49. A cumulative audience of four million-plus viewers watched the season premiere plus an encore of the show’s current edition, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which launched in July.

The Real Housewives have grown by leaps and bounds since the show’s spring 2006 premiere in Southern California’s Orange County, which was the network’s attempt to create a real-life version of ABC’s top-rated Desperate Housewives. Less than a half-million people watched the show’s debut episode, and the show’s first go-round averaged 636,000 viewers.

NBC Universal has begun to make a habit of syndicating shows off of its co-owned cable network. Two years ago, NBCU sold Law & Order: Criminal Intent off USA Network to TV stations as a daily strip. NBCU also produces Monk, which airs on NBCU-owned USA and is distributed to TV stations as a weekly hour.