Brands Ride Shotgun in Speed Channel's Car-Modification Show

'Fine Tuned' Reality Series Features Pioneer Electronics, CarDomain

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DETROIT -- Call it extreme makeover -- for car nuts.

Much like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the ABC program that remodels and rebuilds houses for families in need, Speed Channel is introducing a 10-episode series called "Fine Tuned" that spiffs up the vehicles of deserving drivers.

Actor Tyson Beckford (right) will host the series.
"It's a sort of wish-fulfillment show," said Chad Marshall, founder of Below the Radar, the production company behind the program.

And of course, like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," there's plenty of brand integration. Mr. Marshall enlisted Meteor Worldwide's White Flower Entertainment, Los Angeles, to represent his hour-long show, which starts July 12. White Flower signed on two major sponsors: Pioneer Electronics and CarDomain, an auto-enthusiast and aftermarket-parts retailer website, whose names and products will be heavily integrated into the scripts.

Branded T-shirts, banners and stickers
CarDomain is paying about $300,000 for the privilege of having the show's installers mention the site and wear branded T-shirts, while banners and stickers will be prominent on the sets.

The deal was born after custom-car builder Brian Fox, one of CarDomain's nearly 2 million registered users, told execs at the privately held website about the coming TV show and hooked them up with White Flower, said Michael Teppner, director-business development of CarDomain. He said that "this show is well-put-together by people who are actual enthusiasts."

News Corp.'s Speed Channel is licensing the series from Below the Radar. The cable company is selling ad time (traditionally 10 minutes of national ads plus five minutes of local ads and promos) and is hoping the demos attract non-auto advertisers such as beverage marketers.

White Flower persuaded aftermarket auto suppliers to provide products that will be installed during the show. BASF will be providing paint, and Brembo is set to supply brakes. But producer Mr. Marshall said the same suppliers won't be used in every program. For example, four or five different tire makers and several different super-charger manufacturers will be featured.

Put up $100,000 to create show
The show is broken into segments, with experts installing and explaining the different parts, said Mr. Marshall, who founded Below the Radar in 2000. The former assistant to late-night TV program executives at NBC said he and a partner put up $100,000 to make the show. The self-described "car addict" keeps any sponsorship dollars to produce the program.

CarDomain will host a microsite with Speed offering visitors behind-the-scene videos from the show, said Greg Raece, marketing director of Seattle-based CarDomain. The site will promote "Fine Tuned" on its home page and provide some auto parts from its store.

Mr. Raece said CarDomain is hoping its role on the TV program will boost traffic, page views and visitor engagement on its site.

"Fine Tuned" will also offer a sweepstakes, managed by White Flower sibling Pliq, offering a lucky car owner the chance to have his or her vehicle customized on the show's final episode, said Jake Stango, VP-production resources at White Flower. Entry will be via text messaging, and the contest will be promoted both during the show and on CarDomain, he said.

Hard-to-reach demo
The show targets a hard-to-reach demo, 18- to 34-year-old males. Each of the 10 episodes will show a different import car getting modified inside and out. The modifications will include engine-performance enhancers and slick exterior paint jobs, and the end result will be a pricey one-of-a-kind model. Actor and former model Tyson Beckford, himself a car nut, hosts. "The core thrust is not bling," said Bob Ecker, VP-programming at Speed.

A Nissan 350 Z is featured in one episode. Mr. Marshall said the Z's owner, Steve, gets up at 5 a.m., works two jobs, keeps a 3.7 grade point average as a senior at San Diego State and plans to join the U.S. Marines after graduation. Another featured car owner, Art, is an electrician-trade-school graduate who uses all his earned money to help support his seven siblings.
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