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FitTV Expanding Regimen

4/03/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

FitTV will continue to expand its lineup beyond exercise with more than a half-dozen new series this upcoming season, ranging from a reality program called The Gym to a show hosted by Gabrielle Reece.

The six to eight new shows FitTV will serve up include Insider Training, which is hosted by Reece and will launch in September; and The Diet Doctor, which bows in June and features Dr. Melina Jampolis.

The network, part of the Discovery Networks U.S. stable, will also screen some specials with actress and fitness writer Marilu Henner.

“Looking at 2005 through the upfront, where I put my energy for FitTV was really on broadening the network,” said senior vice president and general manager Carole Tomko. “The Gym is going to be our first reality series, but you’re going to see this year — as well as through ’06 — nutrition, lifestyle, adventure, motivation, self-help. So in addition to when we launched and we had a large emphasis on exercise, we really spent the past year building.”

JAKE’S OUT

FitTV also disclosed last week that will forge forward without fitness impresario Jake Steinfeld, who was a partner in the network for its relaunch just over a year ago.

“We brought Jake on board to understand the fitness landscape and get our feet on the ground, and we’ve done that,” a Discovery spokeswoman said. “We concluded our consulting agreement with him in the fall.”

In January of last year, Discovery relaunched The Health Network, which it acquired for $255 million in cash and equity back from News Corp. in 2001, as FitTV. Fox had formed THN by merging a fitness network Steinfeld had founded — originally called FitTV, and later owned by Pat Robertson’s company — with another channel, America’s Health Network.

After Discovery bought THN and decided to revamp it, the programmer announced it was partnering with “Body By Jake” Steinfeld to retool the fitness network. He was to help create the programming and receive an equity stake.

Steinfeld was traveling last week and couldn’t be reached for comment. Discovery declined to say whether he retained any ownership in FitTV.

The network’s programming has evolved beyond Steinfeld’s specialty, exercise. From the network’s relaunch to this June, it will have 16 new series, according to Tomko.

“And they’re really broadening the editorial scope of the network,” she said.

Tomko said she’s spent the past year overhauling FitTV’s schedule. Her strategy has been to run exercise programming in the morning, then move on to nutrition fare, like Blaine’s Low Carb Kitchen, at 11 a.m..

Following in the afternoon are lifestyle shows, such as Guru2Go.

Primetime is reserved for such shows as The Gym, which follows four “non-traditional trainers … not your sort of beautifully sculpted trainers” and their clients in a Los Angeles health club, Tomko said.

Reece has already done some work for FitTV’s The Extremist, and has an exclusive fitness relationship with the network.

In each episode of Insider Training, which will preview with a stunt in May, Reece visits two athletes to find out what puts them at the top of their game, watching how they train. One installment features Oakland Athletics pitcher Barry Zito.

SIX MORE IN WORKS

FitTV, now in 38 million homes, will bow a handful of new shows this summer, with six more premiering from the fourth quarter to the first quarter next year, Tomko said.

The network has just kicked off an “I Can” marketing campaign that includes cross-channel spots across Discovery’s 14 networks and a print ad in Self. The campaign uses “real people” as “the faces of FitTV,” like a man who boxes to be fit and a surfer mom, Tomko said.

That campaign ties into the network’s research, which has found that people are disillusioned with exercise.

“What they really want was real people, in aspirational stories that they could relate to, that showed them how to be the best in their life that they can be,” Tomko said.

 

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April