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Looking for Marital Bliss — On TV

7/05/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Here come the brides … gone wild!

WE TV kicked off season six of its signature series Bridezillas with 1.2 million tuning in for last month’s premiere. It was followed by the second season of Amazing Wedding Cakes and My Fair Wedding with David Tutera which anchor the channel’s Sunday night block of bridal series and specials that have become a 52-week programming business.

Although WE is somewhat synonymous with weddings, nuptial-themed programming has become more than a mere flirtation for TLC and Style where shows about weddings — and what happens after the honeymoon is over — are ramping up on their schedules. Even TNT, known for its scripted dramas, launched its own feel-good hourlong reality show Wedding Day last month.

“So many women as little girls grow up dreaming about their wedding day and you plan it your whole life,” said WE president and general manager Kim Martin, whose network hosted cast auditions for Bridezillas at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. “Weddings just hold a special place in women’s hearts.”

For programmers, weddings also help them hold — and grow — a coveted demo: women 18 to 49. It’s also a way to further build on a brand. But “it’s not an automatic home run,” said TLC senior vice president of production and development Nancy Daniels.

The channel’s first foray into the genre, Say Yes to the Dress, got off to a slow start. Focused on the inner workings of the Kleinfeld Bridal salon, Say Yes to the Dress eventually benefited from its popular Friday night lead-in What Not To Wear — and the patience of programming executives.

“We certainly believed in the show, and we’re really happy to see those numbers start growing,” said Daniels.

When looking at how to grow in the wedding space — and stay true to its brand — TLC was “really looking at authentic, real characters,” said Daniels, who believes she’s found the right ingredients in wedding caterers the Frungillo brothers and New York wedding planners/spouses Jung Lee and Josh Brooks. Their shows, Masters of Reception and Wedded to Perfection, respectively, will join the slate later this year along with the six-part wedding bloopers series, Wild Weddings.

On the other hand, Mark Freeman had not planned to take Fine Living Network into the bridal business. But with the success of Wedding S.O.S., a Canadian series acquisition, he saw the niche as an opportunity to better define the lifestyle infotainment brand.

“It’s definitely about relationships,” said Freeman, director of programming for FLN, which is also getting love from viewers for its Bulging Brides and Newlywed, Nearly Dead series. “I hate to borrow from TNT, but we love drama, and I can’t think of any event any more dramatic than weddings.”

Style Network president Salaam Coleman Smith said that, “we at the Style network believe love never goes out of style.” Last month, Style’s Whose Wedding is it Anyway? celebrated its 100th episode and the show remains a popular draw after nine seasons. In December, Style will premiere its White Wedding event special, which will continue the channel’s cross-promotional partnership efforts with The Knot.

For post-nuptials, Style will premiere the half-hour docuseries Giuliana & Bill in August, following E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic and her hubby Bill as they attempt to settle into a long-distance married life. Style aired the couple’s Italian wedding, Marry Me In Capri, in 2007 which became the highest-rated original special for the network with 5 million viewers.

“No matter what’s going on in life, the economy, people always fall in love,” said Coleman Smith. “The wonderful thing about weddings … despite all the drama that leads up to a wedding, you can’t get a better happy ending than a wedding story.”

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