New Dating Show Features Local Singles

Lurid is out when it comes to the next wave of dating shows. Those salacious, bikini-packed hot-tub scenes may soon give way to a new multiplatform, interactive dating show featuring local singles, not Hollywood hotties.

My Dating Place, a local half-hour strip, will be tested on Fox-owned MyNetwork­TV affiliate KUTP Phoenix starting late this year or early 2007. Would-be daters can apply on the station's Website, a smart way to drive traffic there.

Veteran news, sports and entertainment producer John Terenzio, the showrunner of Paramount's syndicated Judge Joe Brown, introduced the concept—and vows there's a “no hot tub” rule. That's a barbed reference to syndicated dating shows, like Blind Date, that are no longer in production. He believes single viewers are more interested in hooking up with people in their hometown than in watching wannabe Hollywood actors cavort on camera.

“We want people to have successful dates,” Terenzio says. “Good dates make much better TV.”

Though Terenzio isn't leaving the Brown show, his Tri-American Productions is teaming with the Fox O&O group on the Dating project. A pilot will be shot next week.

Terenzio and Fox Television Stations Chairman Roger Ailes and CEO Jack Abernethy are looking to capitalize locally on the popularity of online dating sites like Terenzio and Fox think combining the Web and TV platforms with local-user–generated content can create new revenue streams.

“The Web has been used primarily to market the television platform, but viewers are sophisticated and want to do more than just cast a vote or buy a product,” Terenzio says. “Having My Dating Place on TV is really an extension and enhancement of the online platform.”

A typical episode will include three local singles who have applied online. The first candidate, showcased in a taped biographical profile, appears on the station's Website (the show may help produce the pieces). The host then instructs interested viewers to submit profiles online, leaving it up to the candidate to choose.

A second part follows a couple on a date, while a third brings the “lucky” contestant back to describe the encounter.

The video profiles eliminate the common online-dating pitfall of misrepresentation, preventing short, fat, chain-smokers from describing themselves as tall and athletic. And this gives everybody a chance to get on TV.

If My Dating Place does well in Phoenix, Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming for the Fox station group, plans to eventually roll it out in other markets.

Terenzio thinks separate versions of the show even could run in different dayparts. A morning or early-afternoon edition of My Dating Place could target single women pushing 40. A separate late-fringe version could go after 18-34s.

My Dating Place could end up having various markets share material—a memorable date of the week, for example. In that way, he sees My Dating Place working the way the old PM Magazine did (local markets contributed feature pieces to the nationally distributed show).

Terenzio also hopes to see stations one day devote digital channels to his “affordable” local-dating concept.

A successful tryout on the Fox stations would help speed the show toward wider syndication.

Stations would acquire a template including set design and graphics, which are being designed now.

“It's a much more friendly cost model than syndicated product,” Cicha says. “That is what is so appealing about it.”