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NBC signs deal for 'Deadliest Catch'-like primetime reality block

By Steve Rogers and Christopher Rocchio, 12/03/2007 

NBC is reportedly planning a low-cost/high-excitement primetime reality programming block.

The network has signed a deal with former Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman and ex-ABC TV Entertainment Group chairman Lloyd Braun's BermanBraun Productions and reality TV producer Thom Beers' Original Productions to develop an unscripted block of programming, Daily Variety reported Sunday.

Although BermanBraun only formed earlier this year and has yet to debut its first series (Duel, the company's first effort, will premiere on ABC later this month), Beers has produced numerous reality shows in years, including Deadliest Catch, Lobster Wars and Monster Garage for Discovery Channel and Ice Road Truckers for History Channel.

While the actual content of the shows are still under wraps, NBC has already ordered three series from BermanBraun and Original with at least three more in the works, according to Variety

Per the deal, NBC has agreed to broadcast at least two hours of Original content back-to-back on a single night of programming, according to The New York Times.  In addition, the terms of the agreement guarantee Beers and his production company 30 hours worth of programming on the network -- consisting of three separate 10-episode series, The Times reported.

Berman and Braun were the ones who initially contacted Beers about being included in the deal, according to The Times, which added discussions earlier this year with NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker focused on the way broadcast networks typically abandon Saturday night programming blocks. 

Because the block would be filled with programs that are cheap to produce by network standards (cable network programming budgets tend to be only a fraction the size of their broadcast network counterparts), the idea was reportedly attractive to all parties involved.

"It certainly has the potential to dramatically change the network economics of a given night," Braun told The Times.

Once Beers was brought on as a producer, The Times reported Berman and Braun pitched 10 potential series to NBC executives, with NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal co-chairmans Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff being described as the most involved in the discussions.  Neither offered The Times comment on the deal.

While Saturday night was the original destination those involved with the deal had in mind for the programming block, The Times reported NBC has declined to commit to airing the shows on Saturday nights -- meaning the block could theoretically run on any night -- and one participant in the deal told paper Saturday nights are not the network's current choice. 

NBC has the right to break-up the block and move the shows to individual nights if they fail to reach a certain ratings threshold while airing together, according Variety.  However if they break up the block for any other reason, the producers will have the option of shopping the shows to another network, according to The Times.

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