'Body Challenge’ Tones Up

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Despite lackluster ratings, Discovery Health Channel will again roll out the scales for its National Body Challenge in 2005 with a revamped content component.

While the promotional and marketing aspects of the National Body Challenge were successful — more than 350,000 people around the country signed up last January with Discovery Health’s campaign to lose weight over a 12-week period — the accompanying series did not fare as well in the ratings. The six-episode Challenge series, which aired in April after the campaign was over, garnered around a 0.2 rating, according to Discovery Health interim general manager Eileen O’Neill.

The show tracked three men and women who represented the participants.

“The [Challenge] launch was outstanding in terms of its participants: There were more than 350,000 in our stores or playing online and we’re looking to build on that,” she said. “The ratings weren’t where we like them to be, or need them to be, and there’s a lot of potential for the series.”

Though the first and last episodes of the reality show posted strong ratings, O’Neill said viewership fell off during the middle installments.

“People are initially excited to see people drop pounds and to see who [loses the most weight], but the middle episodes struggle,” she said.

In an effort to boost ratings, O’Neill said beginning in January, the network would air eight episodes that will run concurrently with the promotion, instead of after the Challenge campaign ends. In addition, she said, each of the episodes would focus on one person and their personal weight-loss journey, rather than follow the same group of individuals throughout.

“We’re really going back to what has been a successful model: the individual challenge,” she said. “Each person that is featured in one of those episodes is losing the weight for themselves, rather than competing against someone else.”

On the marketing side, O’Neill said the network is once again talking to Bally Total Fitness to help promote sign-ups, as well as several other national sponsors, although she would not disclose specific details.

Discovery Health will again use more than 100 Discovery Channel stores and its Web site (www.Discovery.com/health) to sign up participants and track their progress.

Along with the National Body Challenge, O’Neill said that in fall 2005 the network will also air Body Challenge Heavyweights, another offshoot of the four-year-old franchise.

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