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Amsale Design Group waited for five years until “Amsale Girls,” the show revolving around its Madison Avenue bridal flagship that premiered June 12, was green-lit by WE tv. The long wait put Amsale in a bind to make sure its show was distinct from the wedding-oriented programs that proliferated as it was on the reality sidelines. It opted to concentrate on the flagship’s staff in a show that Lexton described as “Sex and the City” meets “Say Yes to the Dress.” “It gives a window into how they look to fulfill that wish of having the perfect wedding dress,” said Neil Brown, chairman and co-founder of Amsale and husband of its namesake designer, Amsale Aberra.
Amsale got a taste of the effect of reality shows on business before “Amsale Girls.” Frankel wed Jason Hoppy in an Amsale gown, and traffic on Amsale’s Web site doubled the week the episode of “Bethenny Getting Married?” featuring the dress aired last July. “That had a tremendous impact,” said Brown, who is more circumspect about the possible impact on sales of “Amsale Girls.” “We think it will create broader awareness of exactly what we stand for and we think that, leaving aside whether it will have revenue impact, that would be terrific,” he said. Amsale has been working to build a lifestyle brand with a global reach and named a new chief executive officer, Denise Seegal, formerly a consultant for investment firm Financo, earlier this year.
For reality stars without established apparel brands before the reality spotlight, co-branded licensing opportunities can be a springboard to further apparel ventures. The Kardashians inked a deal with Bebe before branching out to Sears, with the Kardashain Kollection launching in August, for example.
Royalties going to reality stars on co-branded clothing deals typically run 5 percent or so of sales.
With the upside of reality programs potentially huge for the stars, networks have gotten smarter about securing a larger piece of the pie for themselves. They are frequently paying less for companies to be involved. Bravo pays as much as $50,000 an episode for its reality stars, but $2,000 to $5,000 per episode is regularly the compensation for businesses on shows. These days, the pay can go as low as $1,500 per episode, and the filming that goes into each episode is extensive. It’s up to 12 hours a day for two weeks for a single episode. The total costs of a reality show episode run anywhere from $100,000 to $600,000, compared with a million and above for scripted programming.
“If you are doing it for a fee, don’t do it,” said SallyAnn Salsano, founder and president of 495 Productions, the production company responsible for “Jersey Shore” and “Nail Files.” “The kids from ‘Jersey Shore’ got paid not one dollar for season one. Do you think they wasted their time? No.”
As the net for potential reality stars widens, it’s becoming more helpful for subjects to hire agents and brand managers to articulate salary demands, carve out naming rights and arrange deals with sponsors or other partners — all of whom charge fees or take commissions, usually 5 to 10 percent on contracts.
“If you are looking to get into reality TV and you have a special skill set, it cannot hurt to have an agent,” said Montgomery. “Agents are filters. As producers, we always think that if an agent represents them, they at least got through one filter.”
Although she’s forgoing an agent for now, Cazorla has hired a brand manager to watch for imitators of her Los Angeles area salon, The Painted Nail, and nail polish line of the same name looking to benefit from “Nail Files” publicity. Business success, not reality fame, is her goal — and she’d rather others not spoil it. “I do want to open more of The Painted Nail. I do think it should be in other cities, and I do think Sephora or Ulta could use an eco-friendly, glammed-up brand,” she said. Salsano is confident Cazorla has the chops to make it big from reality tv, à la Frankel. “You don’t invent a brand to have a reality show. You either have a brand or are some schmo and are just yourselves, and America loves you, then that might work out to be a brand,” she said. “Katie loves manicures and pedicures. She went and opened a salon, regardless of the show.”