Wow! It's, Like, ET on MTV
To get young demo for parent show, Entertainment Tonight taps into its cable cousins
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/17/2002 7:00:00 PM
While ET on MTV has the Entertainment Tonight brand all over it, the show feels totally MTV. But the point of putting ET on MTV, as well as on its slightly older sister VH-1, is just as clear.
ET is looking to cultivate viewership among the younger audiences, who aren't necessarily tuned to broadcast stations at the access hour. It also gives the cable nets an entertainment-news show cut to order. The half-hour show, hosted by Maria Menounos, not ET regular Mary Hart, began airing on both channels Monday through Friday, in September, after a trial run last April.
"It rocks," says Greg Meidel, president of programming for Paramount Domestic Television. "It is the fastest half-hour on television. A lot of the material we shoot in the field is too young for ET , but it's perfect content for ET on MTV. We are also excited that young actors and performers who in the past weren't thinking that ET was all that cool now totally love it."
So far, ET on MTV averages a respectable 2.1 in women 12-17 and a 1.6 in women 18-24, which is the target demo producers are trying to hit. It's less successful with men and on VH-1, whose audience is less crucial to the "older" ET. The execution is a good example of synergy at work, with Viacom owning Paramount, MTV and VH-1. Paramount operates separately from the cable channels, both of which pay it license fees for the show.
"We have to give viewers a way to find our brand other than during a half-hour on television every night," says Terry Wood, executive vice president of programming for Paramount and the woman who championed the notion of expanding ET's brand.
Entertainment Tonight has been the top-rated daily entertainment-news magazine in syndication for the last 329 consecutive week. And its national ratings routinely outperform those of rival prime time news magazines, says Michael Mellon, Paramount's executive vice president of research.
ET charges accordingly, asking in the neighborhood of $100,000 for a 30-second spot, more than some prime time shows charge. With production costs of approximately $50 million per year, ET historically has taken in around $100 million annually for Paramount.
Of all first run access shows, ET leads in all key demographic categories, but the plays on MTV and VH-1 are intended to help hook younger viewers so they'll stick around as they age.
Because the show is such a consistent ratings performer, many stations have renewed it through 2010, says John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television. It just about doubles the ratings of its rival magazine shows, particularly because the 21-year-old show has access clearances in 90% of the country.
While it would seem that stations wouldn't like seeing "their" show on cable, Nogawski says the affiliates he has talked to "saw a huge benefit to utilizing a very vital audience that is not necessarily theirs, with the hopes that they would become viewers of the [original] ET over the air."
Besides MTV and VH1, ET also is expanding its brand by doing customized newscasts for CBS owned-and-operated stations in Los Angeles and New York, the country's two biggest markets.
That the customized newscasts started to appear at the same time as the launch of ET on MTV and VH-1 is at least partly coincidence. In Los Angeles, KCBS-TV Vice President and News Director Nancy Bauer Gonzales called up ET Executive Producer Linda Bell Blue when Gonzales took over KCBS-TV's newscast last May. She asked whether Blue would be interested in contributing a segment to the local newscast, because she already knew and liked Blue's work.
Over the course of one telephone call, the two developed the ET Sneak Peek, which features an ET anchor or correspondent appearing live on KCBS-TV's new 4:30 p.m. newscast Monday through Friday.
"Entertainment is a big part of our local newscast," Gonzales says. "So there's every reason for me to want to partner with Entertainment Tonight. I know Linda is excellent and delivers a great product, so I was not at all concerned with the quality of her product in my newscast."
The newscast spends a few minutes looking at takes of that night's stories, which could be anything from the L.A. premiere of the new James Bond movie to the box-office results of Eminem's new movie, 8 Mile.
For New York, an ET anchor or correspondent does a live satellite uplink every morning at 9:18 a.m. PST for WCBS-TV's noon news.
The quick takes provide yet another opportunity to cross-promote ET on the show's two biggest stations, which also are owned by CBS, another Viacom company.
Anchor Mary Hart says she still gets anxious about ET's performance in local markets, even though she has been with the show since June 1982. In fact, during a set visit last week, she was busily scanning the overnight metered-market ratings while waiting to read local station promotions into the camera.
"I like to follow the individual markets," Hart says. "The stations are our bread and butter."
She says she's perfectly happy to hand the younger show's mantle over to Menounos on MTV and VH-1.
"It is not the Mary Hart show, it's Entertainment Tonight," she says. "I feel very secure in being associated with the show, and I'm not paranoid about losing my identity on the show."
ET did its initial trial on MTV with a different host but ended up with Menounos, whom viewers seemed to like better. The petite brunette wears a hip, casual look on air (with belly often bared, of course) and seems as much an MTV veejay as an ET anchor.
"It was important for us to have a host that was able to speak to our demo and for the show to have a different look and feel that would make it more compelling for the MTV demo," says Paul DeBenedittis, senior vice president of programming for MTV.
The show also plays on weekends on VH-1, but, with the demos so similar—both the syndicated ET and the version on VH-1 grab a large audience of adult women over 35—it doesn't garner as strong ratings on VH-1.
While ET on MTV and VH-1 remains true to itself in that it dabbles in TV, film and music, it also serves to promote the stars and shows of the two music-oriented cable channels.
In one episode that aired in October, the show featured MTV's Total Request Live and Carson Daly; Jackass: The Movie, spun off from the MTV show; as well as pop stars Nick Carter, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Carlton, Gwen Stefani, Kid Rock and Mandy Moore.
"ET brings this demo that deeper connection to film and TV we could never go to," DeBenedittis says.
"They are at every premiere, at every set, and we couldn't do that. And, even if we are both at a premiere or a set, they bring a different perspective."
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