Distaff player sets up classy TV date

iVillage's 'iDate' will let men & women meet first online

NEW YORK — TV dating shows automatically conjure up images of lowest-common-denominator sexual titillation — the hot tub gets more screen time than the living room — but women’s media company iVillage is planning to commission a classier, more upscale version of the genre for firstrun syndication.

With the working title of “iDate,” the show will be put together by veteran TV producer Marty Berman and former King World exec Bob Jacobs. Goal of iVillage is to get the show on the air as a five-a-week series by September 2004.

The men and women who go out together on “iDate,” said Doug McCormick, chairman-CEO of iVillage, “will get acquainted online and send a number of emails back and forth before they actually meet in person for the first time,” a situation the show’s cameras will record.

“These people will have to be literate — you can’t use a computer in a Jacuzzi,” he said.

McCormick’s strategy is that by giving viewers of “iDate” “a more enlightened, more evolved dating show,” TV stations won’t be forced to relegate it to latenight time periods, where most of the existing programs of this type must take up residence.

The most important step for iVillage is finding a TV syndicator with some clout in the marketplace to take on distribution of “iDate.” In their pitches to potential distributors, Berman and Jacobs will be able to tout the show’s ability to play in daytime without stirring the wrath of family-values groups that closely monitor TV content, McCormick said.

He added that the iVillage Web site — which has chalked up as many as 15 million “unique visitors” — is prepared to set aside portions of its valuable real estate to cross-promote the TV series.