EXCLUSIVE: In a recent story, I noted that gymnastics, one of the consistently most popular Olympic sports, could be a new hot area in the reality TV space. I can now confirm that CORE Media is developing Celebrity Champions, an original format that will see former Olympians coach celebrities – be they dancers, musicians, actors or athletes – in various disciplines. Those will include bars, floor, rings and vault. Gold medalist Mary Lou Retton is attached as the anchor judge on the project which was brought to CORE by Shauna Thomas, Triana Lavey, and 1996 Olympic team member John Macready. The trio will produce Celebrity Champions with CORE. Other former Olympians attached to participate include Shannon Miller and Paul Hamm. CORE is currently talking to U.S. networks about the project. Sport-themed celebrity reality series have had rough going this year, most recently with the injury-plagued Splash. Of Celebrity Champions, CORE head of U.S. TV, Jen O’Connell, says it will be critical that participants are “physically up for the task.” The plan is to be “smart about casting and put in the proper training time to ensure success, a great performance and lower the potential for injury.”
CORE Media Group (formerly CKx), the umbrella company whose portfolio includes reality series American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, has acquired Sharp Entertainment, Matt Sharp’s New York-based reality television production company behind such programs as the Travel Channel’s Man V. Food, TLC’S Extreme Couponing, National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers and Animal Planet’s Call Of The Wildman. This marks the first acquisition for CORE under new president Marc Graboff, who said in May that he plans to grow the company through strategic purchases. “This announcement is another step in our efforts to expand the breadth of our content offerings and align CORE with some of the industry’s most talented and innovative producers,” Graboff said of Sharp’s acquisition today. CORE also has been among the companies looking at buying Dick Clark Prods.
UPDATED: CKx, the company whose portfolio includes reality series American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, the Elvis Presley estate and the Muhammad Ali brand, has been rebranded CORE Media Group, Inc. It is run by former NBC executive Marc Graboff, who was named president earlier this year and has made his first management appointments. “Our focus now is to take CORE to the next level,” Graboff said. “This means everything from creative content, and new means of distribution to changing the way we partner with sponsors, producers and artists to grow our business.” Graboff’s senior management appointments do not include creative positions as he plans to take his time making executive decisions in that area. But he is busy with dealmaking, closing in on several overall deals with unscripted producers and a reality company acquisition. Core is targeting cable reality and scripted series as well as game shows for its development slate, Graboff said, adding that he plans to build the company around its strong core licensing, merchandising and integrated marketing operations.