Endemol evolves into reality player

'Makeover' maker also behind hit quizzer 'Deal'

Every few years, Endemol USA seems to undergo an extreme makeover of its own.

While CEO David Goldberg and many of his key deputies have been with the company from the start, the Stateside arm of the global TV production giant has evolved with its programming.

When launched, Endemol USA was known for its more out-there fare, such as the oft-controversial “Big Brother” and the critically scorned (but ultra successful) “Fear Factor.” Indeed, the latter skein was born after NBC opted not to produce the cringe-worthy “Chains of Love,” an Endemol format in which potential lovers were literally tied to each other.

As successful as “Fear” was (and “Brother” still is), Goldberg knew Endemol USA needed to change — and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was the way to do that.

“We’re very proud of those shows, but there was a concerted effort to evolve our brand so we weren’t seen as one-dimensional,” he says.

And earlier this year, it announced plans to start snatching up other companies. Toward that end, Endemol this week announced the purchase of Original Media, which specializes in feature film and scripted TV programming.

“One thing we’ve achieved is a reputation of delivering quality programming and of being really solid partners with the network,” Goldberg says.

Company’s latest makeover involved its transformation into a quizzer powerhouse. After it successfully imported “Deal or No Deal” to the States — creating a monster hit for NBC at a time when the net desperately needed one –Endemol quickly moved to capitalize on network TV’s renewed love affair with gameshows.

Not every show worked out (ABC’s “Set for Life” and “Show Me the Money” didn’t catch on), but Endemol is still producing “1 vs. 100” for the Peacock. It’ll return in a revamped form sometime this season.

Just as important, Endemol has managed to nurture Howie Mandel-hosted “Deal,” lobbying NBC to limit its exposure and, hopefully, prolong its life. Those efforts will pay off next fall when a daytime “Deal” launches in syndication.

“Deal” has seen some ratings erosion this season, in part because — despite Endemol’s efforts — NBC still liberally airs repeats of the show, as well as on CNBC. Goldberg, however, thinks the franchise will have staying power.

“Just when people start to get concerned about what it’s doing in the ratings, it finds its legs,” he says.

Goldberg has also helped make Endemol a key player in the digital space, with an online “Deal or No Deal” game a big hit and output deals in place with sites such as Break.com. Company reaps significant revenue from the call-and-win home games that are now a staple of most primetime quizzers.

Meanwhile, “Big Brother,” which is produced day-to-day by Allison Grodner Prods., has been all but greenlit for a ninth season, and the WGA strike could see the show airing in the regular season for the first time.

A prolonged strike may induce Endemol to ramp up reality production even more. Goldberg says the studio has pilots and projects at several nets, but for competitive reasons, it’s staying quiet about details.

Endemol is likely to expand its ranks by using the coin it’s earned from hits such as “Home Edition,” which currently airs weekly on TV Land, to purchase other production shingles. Goldberg hints the first acquisition will come before year’s end.

And once the strike ends, Goldberg says he remains committed to getting Endemol USA into the business of scripted series.

“Like everything else, we won’t do anything radical or rash,” he says. “Everything is done incrementally.”

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