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It's desperation time for "America's Next Top Model" as the longtime The CW reality competition staple is holding on for dear life. And that means dumping some weight overboard, even if it's not dead weight.
Creator and host Tyra Banks have cut loose three of popular personalities that have been a part of her program from the very beginning. J. Alexander, Jay Manuel and Nigel Barker will not return next season. The official line, according to the New York Post, is that the show is completely revamping to embrace more of a social media feel. But the truth is: the ratings for the show are completely in the toilet.
"Top Model" is averaging a 1.1 rating/2 share in Fast National overnight ratings from The Nielsen Co. through the end of March. It's The CW's No. 3 program (behind "Vampire Diaries" and "The Secret Circle"), but it's down nearly 30 percent from last year.
All of The CW's returning programming is down from the year before, most in double digits, but the audience losses at "Top Model" is the worst. One of the show's saving graces, however, is that it's cheap to produce. But now it will be cheaper with the jettison of three contracts.
"Nigel Barker, Jay Manuel and J. Alexander have been an integral part of the 'America's Next Top Model' brand, and they helped turn this show into the household name it is today," said Ken Mok, executive producer of the show, in a written statement to the Post. "They have been amazing assets to the show, and will always be a part of the 'Top Model' family. We will continue to actively work with each of them on future projects."
Barker, who turns 40 next week, is a former model-turned-photographer who had originally pursued a career in medicine. His work on "Top Model" has allowed him to expand his work beyond just photography, and has since taken on other work, including product spokesman. He maintains a studio in Manhattan.
Manuel, who turns 40 later this year, is a one-time opera performer who made a move into makeup, doing work for people like Banks, which allowed her to discover him for the show. He has his own makeup line, Manuel Override, which is usually sold through cable shopping channel QVC.
Alexander is a former model who gained later prominence as a runway coach beginning in 1991. Although he started as just a coach in the early seasons of "Top Model," he was installed as a judge by the fifth season.
"Top Model" has been renewed for a 19th and 20th season -- the show does two half-seasons per regular television season. It premiered on the original UPN in 2003 and quickly became one of that network's top shows. It moved to The CW in 2006 when UPN and rival The WB were shuttered, and the owners of both networks joined forces to create one network.
The network itself has been struggling almost as much as "Top Model." It's averaging a 1.1/2 through Wednesday, down 15 percent from last year. It's nowhere near the Big Four networks. In fact, the closest network it has in terms of viewers is NBC, but the Peacock beats it by more than 225 percent on average.
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