'Blind Date': Lori Shackel

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Creating a hit in today's TV marketplace is about as hard as finding true love on a blind date. Vivendi Universal's Universal Worldwide Television defied the odds with the syndicated reality series "Blind Date."

Two seasons ago, reality TV wasn't red hot. Still, Universal put a reality twist on the dating game, letting viewers follow strangers on a first date, anything from a belly-dancing lesson to a beachside workout, followed by dinner.

If the daters are dull, never fear. "Blind Date's" writers aren't. The show superimposes animated pop-ups with inspired commentary. The worse the date, the better for "Blind Date," which uses snippets from "Dates from Hell" in promotional spots.

"Blind Date" has never had a network-size promotional budget. Instead, Lori Shackel, 38, Universal's senior VP-marketing, got creative. She and her seven-person staff staged "Blind Date" parties at Hard Rock Cafes around the country, with radio station tie-ins.

Today, "Blind Date" airs in 93% of the country and is attracting Madison Avenue's preferred 18-to-34-year-olds. In the July sweeps, "Blind Date" achieved its highest ratings, delivering a gross average audience of 3.0 for the week of July 30, according to Nielsen Media Research.

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