Reveille cashes in on show's popularity

The Biggest Loser” draws viewers in with the promise of seeing the contestants dropping weight, but the reality show’s business plan is all about getting fatter.

“Everybody and their brother has a diet plan, and they all work the same way: Reduce your calorie intake, increase your activity to burn calories, and you will lose weight,” says Kim Niemi, senior VP of marketing for NBC Universal. “What we are doing is putting a brand to that idea, one that people can trust based on our show.”

Right from the beginning four years ago, Reveille planned on bringing additional revenue streams outside the traditional ad sales and licensed sponsors by turning “The Biggest Loser” into an independent brand that could be successfully marketed on its own.

Mark Koops, exec producer and managing director of Reveille, says the show now generates a $50 million revenue stream from branded items ranging from scales to DVDs and books.

There are a number of integrated show partners, including 24 Hour Fitness and Jenny O, but not any weight-loss programs.

At first glance, that might have seemed like a missed opportunity. But Ben Silverman, who was running Reveille when “The Biggest Loser” was developed before he took the reins as NBC Entertainment co-chairman, decided early on there was no reason to bring on any other weight loss programs. He reasoned the show could brand their own and reap the considerable financial rewards by becoming the new generation of weight-loss managers.

“Ben Silverman is nothing if not a big-picture guy. From the beginning, we definitively had larger ambitions than just finding ad partners,” Koops says. “We believed the show had a great voice on its own, and didn’t need a Weight Watchers, Curves or South Beach. We wanted to carve out our own place. We knew we had something larger than just an entertaining TV show.”

The business plan not only included capitalizing on its own weight-loss program but bringing in sponsors such as 24 Hour Fitness, which would feature “The Biggest Loser” in its ad campaigns.

“If we are being marketed in a Subway or a 24 Hour Fitness, it might remind viewers to watch the show,” Koops says. “It’s no longer enough to have networks promote your show, you need to get the word out in other areas.”

Tony Wells, chief marketing officer for 24 Hour Fitness, says having that strong “Biggest Loser” brand name boosts interest in the health club.

“It’s great for us to be an Olympic sponsor or to run (commercials) during regular TV shows, but this program allows us to show what our brand does every day for our 3.5 million members,” Wells says. “The gym is critical to the plot of the show. It’s very rare to get an opportunity like this where your product is part of a TV show and viewers can see actual results.”

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