"Real Housewives" head to NBC O&Os for 2010

The NBC-owned stations have made a deal with co-owned NBC Universal Television Distribution to begin airing off-cable repeats of The Real Housewives Of… as a weekday strip beginning in the fall of 2010. Locally, the program will air in a unspecified time period on WMAQ-TV.

The program has also been sold to Hearst Broadcasting, which means the series will also air as a strip over ABC affiliates WISN-TV in Milwaukee and WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, plus NBC affiliate WBAL-TV in Baltimore. The series is being sold on an all-barter basis.

The series currently airs on Bravo!, which is also owned by NBC Universal.

The program usually follows the lives of five housewives in a real-life docu-soap version of Desperate Housewives. The activities can range from the gals attending charity events to… well, fighting one another.

Four editions of the show have been shot – in New Jersey, New York, Atlanta, and Orange County (Calif.) The Atlanta version has been extremely popular, drawing 2.7 million viewers for its second season premiere. Plus, the Atlanta version has been a huge draw among African-American viewers, ranking at or near the top every week among cable in black homes according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile, the season finale of the New Jersey version drew 4.6 million in June.

One negative for the show’s broadcast syndication run is the interchangeability of the cast with the different editions, a problem plaguing most reality shows. Keep in mind though, off-network repeats of Cops is set in a different city almost every episode and has been a staple of broadcast syndication since 1992. On the other hand, interchangeability did not help Rescue 911 or America’s Most Wanted: Final Justice when they entered off-network syndication.

With the NBC O&Os taking Housewives for 2010, it means one of three shows on NBC O&Os’ daytime schedule could be a target for cancellation – NBC Universal’s Martha, which has struggled since its’ inception; Deal or No Deal, which has so-so numbers; and The Bonnie Hunt Show, which is limping into season two. There’s also Ellen, who like Bonnie is syndicated by Warner Bros., but Ms. Degeneres’ show continues to perform well, so a defection isn’t likely.

NBC’s WRC in Washington D.C. does not air Deal or Martha.

As for Real Housewives’ future on Bravo, the next edition is expected to take place in D.C. A Chicago edition is also being discussed.