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
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
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for
Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.