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'Race’ Finds Itself a New Place on GSN

6/10/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

GSN has acquired syndication rights to the Emmy-winning reality show The Amazing Race with an option to acquire and use more seasons through 2009.

The game network intends to launch the largest marketing effort in its history centered on the show, which GSN will use to lure viewers to new original and updated shows that will launch around The Amazing Race’s episodic airings this summer. The GSN shows include the pool-playing Ballbreakers and updated Extreme Dodgeball.

GSN CEO Rich Cronin declined to discuss terms of the deal, which was brokered by King World Productions, saying only: “It was more expensive than we expected, but worth every cent.”

Published reports value the agreement in the $50,000 to $55,000 range per episode. With some 110 installments available, the pact is worth an estimated $6 million.

The acquisition marks the latest round in cable syndication activity in the reality realm. Outdoor Life Network recently secured the rights to Survivor for almost $11 million, while VH1 has obtained America’s Top Model and Tommy Lee Goes To College.

SEPTEMBER START

The first season of The Amazing Race is slated to debut on GSN on July 11 at 9 p.m. Episodes of the first five seasons will run in order, each night, throughout the summer. The show’s sixth and seventh seasons will begin encoring in September and GSN plans to schedule season eight, which has yet to air on CBS, next year.

“It’s a great show for our brand: Every episode has a winner, and of course, a loser,” said Cronin, who believes viewers will be able to come in at any point in the run of a season and “lock in quickly” to the series.

PAST REALITY MISSES

GSN has had middling success with past reality acquisitions like The Mole and Average Joe, as well as original reality show American Dream Derby. The network has received a better performance from Dog Eat Dog, with the latter still running on various days and time slots.

But network executives expect The Amazing Race to be a “game changer” for GSN. They say this is the first time the network has acquired a series that’s a “building hit” in its original broadcast window. The recently concluded seventh season averaged an 8.0 household rating on CBS, an increase from the first season’s 5.9 average, Cronin noted.

He added the show will be a very large part of the network’s upfront presentation, explaining that The Amazing Race delivers GSN’s target audience of adults 25 to 54, although the show does skew slightly more female than the target GSN demo.

LARGE SPOT CABLE BUYS

Dena Kaplan, senior vice president of marketing, said the launch of the series will be supported by large national and spot cable buys in the Top 20 cable markets. Promotional spots have already broken on GSN, telling viewers, “The race has a new place.”

GSN will be the only place for fans of the show to catch up on earlier editions they may not have seen, for unlike other reality shows like Survivor or The Apprentice, there are no past episodes available on DVD.

GSN will meet with CBS executives to discuss possible co-promotion opportunities when the new season begins in the fall. Also on the table will be whether the network can build an online game playing opportunity for GSN viewers, executives said.

Ian Valentine, senior vice president of programming, said that no programs would be bumped from the schedule to make room for the reality series.

September