Barbara Lazaroff, former wife and business partner of Wolfgang Puck, is about to take on the world of reality TV, joining forces with Evolution Media to create a show that would pit budding restaurateurs against each other in a competition to win a new restaurant opening.

While the show's concept is similar to other culinary reality shows such as "Hell's Kitchen," Evolution is counting on Lazaroff's vivacious personality and steely business acumen to set them apart.

"Barbara is a force of nature," said Douglas Ross, founder and chief executive of Evolution. "She's as smart as she is powerful."

Lazaroff designed Spago Hollywood's flagship casual chic interior and trend-setting open kitchen style that has been replicated across the country in additional Spago restaurants while helping to establish the Wolfgang Puck trademark gourmet-style pizzas, pastas, canned soups and other gourmet specialties that all together have generated more than an estimated $500 million to date.

Burbank-based Evolution, which has created reality-based TV shows such as "The Real Housewives of Orange County" on Bravo Network and HGTV's "Desperate Spaces."

Lazaroff's Hollywood cachet and connections could make this the show a success.

If a major broadcast network fails to pick up the "Barbara Lazaroff Show," Evolution is expected to shop it to cable channels such as Bravo, TLC, A & E; and the Oxygen Network.

The show's hybrid concept part competition, part restaurant launch is the brainchild of Ross and Lazaroff. They worked the details together during the past six months.

The concept will require financial assistance from both the show's producers and investors to make it work.

Ross said that he expects the show's buyer, whether broadcast or cable, to pick up a portion of the cost of designing, stocking and opening the new restaurant. But that part of the program will feature Lazaroff working with the winning contestant to gain funding for the culinary endeavor.

"Barbara is a very savvy businesswoman and part of the show's appeal will be to watch how she mentors the winning contestant through the process of raising the financing that it takes to pull off the big finale," Ross said.

Mixed Message

Hallmark Channel parent company Crown Media Holdings Inc. gave its investors a mixed greeting last week.

The good news was a 23 percent increase in ad revenue. Ad sales rose to $56.4 million during its first quarter ending March 31.

But the company reported a net loss of $14.7 million for the quarter, compared with a loss of $40.2 million during the same period last year. Revenue was $70.6 million, up 32 percent. The company's stock rose by 4.6 percent to $4.80 per share during last week's trading.

Crown Media also reported subscriber fee revenue of $13.9 million, an 85 percent increase, with 8 million additional subscribers to 84.2 million.

Those gains appear to be, at least in part, due to the Studio City-based company's renegotiation of agreements with DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision to continue to carry its Hallmark Channel under new financial terms. Terms of those deals were not disclosed.

Crown also launched an aggressive slate of seven original movies during the first quarter. The company told shareholders last week to expect further gains.

"Continued programming success, realization of more favorable subscriber license fees, and a strong advertising market should have a positive impact on results for 2008," Chief Executive Henry Schleiff said in a statement.

Saturday Jam

Every hour can be rush hour in Los Angeles.

So KFWB-AM (980), a CBS affiliate, took to the air recently to establish itself as the first and only local radio station to cover traffic conditions from the sky on Saturdays.

Using its fixed-wing airplane, Air 980, traffic coverage can now be heard Saturdays between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While the station is seeking additional ad sponsorship, similar to the type it now receives from its weekday Jet Copter traffic coverage, it has yet to secure a sponsor.

Station program director Andy Ludlum said that the move to go airborne with traffic coverage on Saturdays was not strictly ad-driven.

"We consider ourselves a service and being of service comes first," Ludlum said. "If we are successful at that the ad dollars will follow."

KFWB has enlisted its weekday traffic reporters Jennifer Burns, Alan Lee, Mike Taylor and Mark Keene to join a weekend rotation roster, each working one Saturday a month.

Testament Television

Shalom TV, the first national Jewish cable television network, recently entered the Los Angeles market with its own video-on-demand channel on Time Warner Cable service. This latest move gives Shalom TV access to 1 million households throughout city, bringing the fledgling channel's total potential viewers to 16 million households. But that number will top 18 million soon.

Since picking up cable heavyweights Comcast and Time Warner elsewhere in the U.S. in February, New Jersey-based Shalom TV has been on a roll, picking up cable carriers across the nation. The channel's next big target is Cox Communications, which could give it access to more than 25 million households in the U.S.

Currently, the channel is being funded by its principal owners: Rabbi Mark Golub, who founded the Russian Television Network for Jews; Bradford Hammer, who built up the Pennsylvania Cable Network; and David Brugnone of Fox and Showtime networks.

Staff reporter Brett Sporich can be reached at bsporich@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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