Product placement is going non-profit

"The Wine Makers" on PBS is a battle among 12 individuals for the chance to launch their own label and will find a home on-air in 2007. However, the producers will need to secure 350-plus public-television stations, since the national PBS arm isn't involved.

Top-tier sponsors are being offered a five- to 15-second spot before and after the half-hour show. So far, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, which promotes wine produced on California's central coast, is onboard. Producers are searching for up to three other marketers.

The sponsorship model for "The Wine Makers" is reflective of the new PBS. The network has traditionally relied on underwriters and image advertisers, but with funding sources drying up and competition from cable--for viewers and differentiated content--intensified, bottom-line considerations are key. Pre- and post-roll spots are gaining traction as the inveterate "brought to you by" tags may be losing steam.
Plans call for the eight-episode series to begin with 12 contestants--which will be trimmed to nine in the first episode, and then to six in the next.

The six finalists will then battle it out over the remaining six episodes. The contestants will live together like other reality series, and a rotation of judges specializing in different aspects of the wine business will make the cuts on each episode. Contestants will be tested on the soup-to-nuts of the wine business, from vintage conception to sales and marketing. Producers hope that an insider's view of the industry will be an additional attraction to the competition.
The winning label will be distributed at Whole Foods stores and via


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