When CBS's syndicated late-night dating show, "Excused," debuts Sept. 12 in the 11 p.m. hour on stations across the country, it will carry many of the hallmarks of the genre: the voyeuristic thrill of watching hip, young folks trying to get it on; a funny host armed with wisecracks; and the merest whiff of sexual intrigue.
Yet "Excused" will also bring something different to the screen: a dating website at the heart of its proceedings.
So-called "relationship series" from "The Dating Game" to "Studs" to "Shipmates" traditionally let viewers watch potential suitors figuring out whether they are right for each other. "Excused" will take things a step further using Jazzed.com, a new site from eHarmony that will allow viewers to virtually meet -- and maybe even physically date -- contestants on the show.
While eHarmony is more serious-minded in its goal -- helping a user reach the love of his or her life -- Jazzed's aim is to help people engage "in a broader range of relationship outcomes," said Grant Hosford, Jazzed's senior director for marketing and new initiatives "We sort of internally say, 'From coffee to commitment.'"
The partnership points to the steady growth of the online-dating industry, which now encompasses everything from the popular but casual Match.com to the more sober-minded eHarmony to the ribald AshleyMadison.com. The online-dating market brought in around $1.86 billion in revenue in 2010, according to a May 2011 report from market-research firm IBISWorld, representing 2.8% growth from 2009. Many of these services were not around or as popular during the older dating shows' heyday.
Online dating is now often seen as an easier way to meet people than hanging out at a bar, while TV's dating programs have more or less fallen out of favor since the syndicated "Blind Date" ended its run in 2006. (ABC's "The Bachelor" is a different kind of program, devoting an entire season to finding a match for a single person; "Cheaters," a syndicated show that catches romantic partners in the act of infidelity, is certainly very different.)
Dating shows' absence from the airwaves made executives at CBS Television Distribution consider taking a stab at a new entry, said Marc Weinhouse, an exec VP at the unit. "People are looking for comedy, something fun, and this show brings that to them," he said. Interestingly, the producers of "Excused" are the same folks who created "Blind Date."
Because of Jazzed.com's participation, viewers will be able to get more information on the contestants by looking them up on the site.
During each 30-minute episode of "Excused," references will be made to the contestants' Jazzed.com profile pages, where viewers can learn more about individuals' likes, dislikes, background and more, said Mr. Weinhouse. "During casting for the show, we gave all of the daters the opportunity to register and get a year's subscription to Jazzed," he explained. "Toward the end of each episode, we tell the audience if they want to meet any of the daters in today's show plus other daters from 'Excused,' they can really meet these daters."
The two parties have constructed what would seem to be a unique business model upon which to base their team-up. "We actually wanted to have a stake in this, and if they are successful, if we are able to truly drive the number of registrations and subscribers we do belive we can, we have certain incentives," said Mr. Weinhouse. "The way we've set up the incentives" plays into "how we will bring in revenue here."
Because of that , the typical arrangement in which a marketer buys traditional advertising to accent products that appear in a show isn't necessarily in place here. "We have options to buy ads, and we will be buying some, but it's not the focus," said Mr. Hosford.
Which leaves the door open -- surprisingly, perhaps -- for other dating sites to advertise on "Excused." CBS research indicates most consumers who are looking for a partner join multiple online-dating services, said Mr. Weinhouse. "There are like a zillion different dating sites, aimed at very specific genres," he said. "Excused" is "where those people who would be using online-dating services would be."
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