Once they spotted Michael Gelman, the less-than-camera-shy executive producer of Live with Regis and Kelly, on Prince Edward Island in April, the rumours were hard to quash. “We tried,” says Brenda Gallant, of Tourism P.E.I. When the gossip led an opposition MLA to ask whether the show would be shooting in P.E.I.—at some public expense—Tourism Minister Robert Vessey ducked, saying he had nothing to announce.
In fact, P.E.I. had been wooing the show for months. “Our U.S. penetration is low,” explains deputy minister of tourism Melissa MacEachern, adding that what P.E.I. needs is “brand awareness”—the kind of thing the Island, a golfer’s paradise, secured last year from the Golf Network reality show The Big Break XI: Prince Edward Island.
So P.E.I. set out to snare a U.S. daytime syndicated vehicle—but who? The Oprah Winfrey Show, as it turns out, rarely shoots on location. But as a culinary tourism destination—the mussels, the Malpeques oysters, that lobster (those potatoes!)—and as a place of beaches and beautiful scenery, Tourism P.E.I. thought they might appeal to Regis and Kelly, which has shot in Niagara Falls and Whistler. At a winter meeting in New York, the Islanders spun P.E.I. as a “very well-kept secret.” The pitch was well-received (the show hears frequent overtures but considers few). The decision, the Islanders were told, would go to Gelman. “The Gelman?” they asked. Married to a Canadian, he eventually okayed the visit.
None of this comes cheap—$800,000 from P.E.I., $200,000 from the feds. Yet estimates value the four-day exposure, in July, at $4.8 million. “You can’t buy this kind of advertising,” says Gallant. But aren’t they?