Madison + Vine: Magna sells NBC on reality series

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Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global Entertainment will produce a new limited reality series called "The Restaurant" that gives Magna Global's top clients access to product integration deals and media time.

The six-episode show will be produced with Tribeca Films and Reveille, a TV production company affiliated with Vivendi Universal Entertainment. It will air next summer on General Electric Corp.'s NBC, according to media executives. Neither NBC nor Magna Global Entertainment executives returned phone calls for comment at press time.

The show will follow the lives of a New York restaurant's owner, its maitre d', chef, bartenders and wait staff as well as its patrons. On any given evening, it could feature a couple's surprise engagement, a nasty breakup or a family reunion.

Given the show's setting, it would seem likely Interpublic client Coca-Cola Co.-which netted significant exposure in "American Idol" on News Corp.'s Fox-would be a primary sponsor. But a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola said the company had no plans for the program at this time.

In a break from common practice for most new programs, the network will not pay a cash license fee to the producers. Instead, the show's ad time will be split between Magna Global and NBC. Typically, networks don't like to spend money for programming in the summer, when fewer advertising dollars are spent than during other times of the year.

Ben Silverman, Reveille CEO, was instrumental in coming up with the concept. Mr. Silverman was with the William Morris Agency for six years and has packaged and sold such programs as "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?," "The Weakest Link," "Big Brother" and "Queer as Folk."

Robert Riesenberg, exec VP-director of Magna Global, has been instrumental in packaging programming for a number of its clients. Last year, Magna Global produced "The Christmas Secret," in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, General Motors Corp. and Nestle USA, which ran on Viacom's CBS. The agency also put together a movie deal for J&J on AOL Time Warner's TNT. One movie, "Door to Door," starring William H. Macy and Helen Mirren, ran this year. Another is planned with the working title "Miss Lettie and Me," starring Mary Tyler Moore.

contributing: hillary chura

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