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USA, HSN invent fresh reality take

Competitors to vie for slot to sell their wares

USA has sealed a deal with Home Shopping Network and “America’s Next Top Model” exec producer Ken Mok for the reality series “Made in the U.S.A.” — the first series to move forward under the auspices of alternative head Libby Hansen.

Cabler has ordered production on the show, which will offer undiscovered inventors across the country a chance to compete for a coveted slot on HSN to sell their wares.

“Made in the U.S.A.” contestants will go through the real-life gamut of getting a product out to the public. Set in HSN headquarters in St. Petersburg, Fla., the elimination-style show will follow players as they compete, facing the same challenges HSN retailers go through to get their goods on the air. Winner will land a yearlong contract with the shopping hub.

USA is eyeing a late-spring, early- summer premiere for the series, execs say. Should it nab a later airdate, it’ll bow amid the network’s jam-packed summer — already home to renewed the continuation of sci-fi drama “The 4400,” the fourth season of “Monk” and a fresh cycle of “The Dead Zone” — in which USA will also unveil a more focused brand and on-air imagery.

Hansen, a former ABC alternative exec, joined USA as vice president last summer to revive its efforts in the reality arena (Daily Variety, Aug. 12). To date, USA has made just one significant stride in the genre: the country singing competish “Nashville Star,” which was recently given the go-ahead for a third season.

“What I like about this idea is that the stakes are real. I was part of (the team behind) ‘The Benefactor,’ so I can’t point fingers,” Hansen said. “But this will see feasible dreams come true. That alone has got tremendous universal appeal.”

“The people who spend their time inventing new products are every bit as entertaining as the products themselves,” she added.

USA exec VP of original programming Jeff Wachtel said the show’s emphasis on characters and positive spin are well-matched with the net’s rebranding efforts.

“One of my mandates to Libby was to go against the grain of the more mean-spirited reality shows there. What she came back to me with was a show that talks up the audience instead of down,” he said. “This show will track smart people invested in taking their ideas and turning them into reality. A one-year deal with Home Shopping Network is a uniquely perfect and real prize.”

Retail shopping channel HSN is among the top-10 moneymaking cable nets — available in more than 81 million homes — racking up nearly $2 billion in revenue this year. Net prexy Marty Nealon said conversations about doing a similar reality show had been circulating since reality programming took off a few years ago, but nothing had come to fruition until USA approached them.

HSN is not planning to re-air “Made in the U.S.A.” on the channel, but will likely serve as a marketing and promotion boon to USA.

ICM-repped Mok exec produces the Fox reality show “Who’s Your Daddy?” Hansen also handles live- event programming for USA, including its AFI tribute specs.