Heartburn: A&E Readies Dating Show

NEW YORK Smash Advertising and Sharp Entertainment have partnered to produce a reality series about dating that will air on cable network A&E.

Tentatively titled Patti Novak: America’s Toughest Matchmaker, the show will track the dating adventures of 26 lonely hearts from initial meetings and first rendezvous to coaching sessions and follow-up interviews.

The eponymous matchmaker will follow love seekers in each of the series’ 13 half-hour episodes. Viewers can expect plenty of heart smashups.

“The love business is complicated,” said Novak.

The inspiration for the show was a November 2003 article in the Buffalo News that featured Novak’s matchmaking service.

Unlike the cable net’s brandfests like Project Runway, the heart-matching “docu-show” will display a softer, “more organic” approach to product integration, said Colleen Conway, the show’s executive producer and A&E director of nonfiction and alternative programming.

“Going into Patti’s workplace, and out of the gate with her clients, eliminates a heavy-handed approach to product integration,” she said.

“It’s going to get a great cross-section of men as well as women cause it’s a little in-your-face,” said Marilyn Kass, managing director of Smash, a Boston-based ad agency and production house that frequently works with A&E.

Conway explained that the key opportunities for sponsorship will center on
short-form program extensions across mobile, Internet and other media platforms. The cable channel is currently lining up advertisers, but declined to disclose names.

Though A&E has made a concerted play for younger audiences in recent years, the core demographic for Patti Novak is its sweet spot, mid-40s. (The channel mostly attracts 25-54-year-old viewers, skewing female.)

The featured subjects on Patti Novak will straddle a wide age range. “It could at a 20-something looking for love or an 80-year-old,” said Matt Sharp, the show’s executive producer and president of New York-based Sharp Entertainment. “We’re not ruling out by age.” Sharp noted that the mid-40- and 50-year-olds in the pilot episode received a “great reaction” from younger focus groups.

“Everyone relates—finding love is so universal,” said Sharp.

This isn’t the first branded dating show to come along in recent memory. In
November, the TBS cable network began airing a comedic series about an ingenue’s dating life, My Boys, sponsored by Match.com. MediaHub, the media planning and buying arm of IPG’s Mullen, brokered the deal for Match.com and the Turner channel.

The show will shoot later this month and is scheduled to air in the spring.