Editor's note: As part of our special TV Issue, we asked our Media Guy columnist to gaze into his crystal ball to divine the future of the medium. Here's Part 2 of his three-part report from... next year.
April 18, 2012 [New York] -- NBC Universal today announced that it will launch the Dancing with the Pregnant Teen Children of Real Housewives Network, a new 24-hour cable and satellite TV channel. It will debut in 40 million homes on May 1.
The new network is a major coup for NBC Universal in that it leverages the successful "Real Housewives" franchise from its Bravo unit and combines it with two other proven ratings draws: children having children, as chronicled in shows such as MTV's "16 and Pregnant," and dancing, as seen on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
Abstinence spokeswoman and former "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Bristol Palin has been tapped to serve as one of eight VJ-style hosts of what will essentially be a round-the-clock dance competition for promiscuous teenagers interspersed with related series including "15 and Slutty," "Cribs: Literally" and "I'm the Unborn Child of a Teen Mom Whose Own Mom is a Real Housewife -- Get Me Out of (This) Here (Womb)!"
Andy Cohen, president of original programming and development at Bravo, will lead the new channel, which will replace NBC Universal's Chiller, a network that focuses on the horror/suspense genre. "We think we can hold on to the Chiller audience and build on it," said Mr. Cohen, "because what could be more horrifying than watching pregnant children dance the samba badly while their neglectful mothers sit in the audience hoping for a close-up?"
The launch represents a major shift in strategy for NBC Universal, a subsidiary of Comcast. Chiller introduced a new logo and a new tagline, "Scary Good," just last October. NBC Universal will, however, salvage at least a portion of that rebranding effort in bestowing the tagline "Scary Bad" on Dancing with the Pregnant Teen Children of Real Housewives Network.
The creation of the network demonstrates that under its new owner, NBC Universal is not shying away from controversial programming. As Nathaniel Hives, a mass communications professor at the University of Vermont, points out, "Studies show that teenage mothers are much more likely to give birth prematurely, which suggests the possibility of a live birth on the dance floor on live television. Ethically, that's problematic."
Mr. Cohen dismisses such criticism, but notes that the network will closely monitor the pregnancies of its dancing teen mothers with new WombCam technology, which will also be deployed on the "Unborn Child" series. "Plus," Mr. Cohen added, "we've triple-polyurethaned the dance floor, just in case anybody's water breaks."
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.