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CNBC looks at reality beyond Wall Street in new prime-time shows

March 05, 2013|By Meredith Blake
  • Perry Barndt, left, and Jeff Allen star in CNBC's new reality series, "Car Chasers."
Perry Barndt, left, and Jeff Allen star in CNBC's new reality series,… (Kevin Lynch / CNBC )

Does cable TV’s business-news leader CNBC have what it takes to make it in prime time?

We'll find out on Tuesday night when the network, known for attracting millions of affluent, educated viewers during the day with its minute-by-minute live coverage of Wall Street and the financial sector, ventures into uncharted territory with a new prime-time reality programming block.

Dubbed “CNBC Prime,” the two-hour unscripted block will begin at 9 p.m. with “Treasure Detectives,” in which art and antiques expert Curtis Dowling investigates the authenticity of high-value collectibles such as a mug said to have belonged to John Lennon. (The network describes it as  “‘Antiques Roadshow’ meets 'C.S.I.'”) It will be followed at 10 p.m. by “The Car Chasers,” about a pair of Texas men who buy, fix and flip rare automobiles.

Both shows take on subjects that have proved extremely popular elsewhere in the cable-TV landscape but, this being CNBC, they are viewed through the lens of business. “These programs turn on value, turn on money, turn on transaction,” said Mark Hoffman, president of CNBC.  

The network joins a growing list of cable outlets such as History and AMC who’ve migrated into the world of reality programming in recent years. Given CNBC’s trusted reputation as a source for financial news and its extremely high-end viewership, the move into an often vilified genre is not without its risks.

But Hoffman sees the new programming block as a way to “humanize business” and build the network’s audience outside market hours while also staying true to their core mission. “We’re confident that it will add value, that it will not dilute the brand,” he said.

CNBC is focused on Tuesday nights at the moment, but there are plans to ramp up the prime-time schedule in the very near future. The network has close to a dozen other business-themed shows on its development slate, including a program about a high-end concierge service and a franchise competition series.

“These shows are going to be about ambition and achievement and affluence and the consequences that come with all that, and that’s the perfect fit for CNBC,” Hoffman said.

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