E! Looks Beyond Red Carpets With Awards Acquisition

Cable net has big plans for ‘People’s Choice Awards,’ its first owned awards show

Why This Matters

Awards shows have had ratings challenges, but it’s a category E! knows exceedingly well.

Related: Linear and Digital Becoming One, Says Greenblatt

Synonymous with red carpet revelry, E! now has its very own awards show to add its unique preshow stamp to. In a surprise acquisition, E! acquired the People’s Choice Awards. It represents the first awards show the NBCUniversal Cable Networks channel owns, and E! is eager to make the event its own.

E! does not seem intent, at least for the near term, on acquiring more awards shows. The channel instead is focused on being a good partner for the shows it rolls the red carpet out for, and is fully focused on making the People’s Choice Awards as good — and as E!, for that matter — as it can be when the event debuts on its new channel next year.

That means a major social media movement behind the special, among other things. “We’re aiming to bring it to the next level, give it the E! point of view,” E! president Adam Stotsky said. “Creatively, it’s a lot of work.”

While Mark Burnett has produced the People’s Choice Awards, which had aired on CBS, he’s been replaced by NBCUniversal’s own Wilshire Studios, which also produces the signature Live from the Red Carpet on E! “They’re a valued partner,” said Stotsky of Wilshire Studios. “There’s a comfortable and effective producing relationship.”

A World of Fans

The People’s Choice Awards, which was created in 1975, aired Jan. 18 on CBS. Joel McHale hosted and 6.67 million total viewers watched, while it hit an all-time low in viewers 18-49 (it did a 1.2, off from last year’s 1.3, when Jane Lynch hosted).

But Stotsky likes that the special is, as he puts it, “driven by fandom,” with regular Americans choosing the winners. Celebrating the brightest in movies, music and television, the People’s Choice Awards are also an on-screen explosion of young, famous talent, an E! staple. The special will air in 2018 across E!’s 17 international channels, reaching 153 countries.

Stotsky would prefer to talk about the 300 million votes cast online for the People’s Choice Awards than ratings. “It’s got a fan-forward focus,” he said, which pairs well with the broad E! brand.

Speaking privately, various NBC executives liked the deal, and were eager to see what E!, a presence at so many other awards events, does with its own awards property.

Deborah Lynn Jaramillo, director of the graduate film and television studies program at Boston University, noted how the move is akin to NBC and its live musicals. “It makes sense that NBCU would turn E!’s red carpet programming into a synergistic opportunity by buying up a relatively long-standing awards show. Having both the pregame show and the game itself will create an embarrassment of marketing riches,” she said. “Awards shows allow networks to promote their programming in the show — through star presenters — and obviously in the ad breaks. So by taking People’s Choice away from CBS and moving it to a cable channel with a smaller and younger audience, NBCU will pull attention to E! while promoting any number of its own TV shows, films and online offerings.”

The New York Times reported that E! paid Procter & Gamble between $8 million and $10 million for the property, but Stotsky would not comment on the price.

E! has big plans for enhancing the People’s Choice Awards’ interactivity, and making sure viewers discover the products from those advertising in the special. NBCUniversal executive VP of lifestyle and Hispanic advertising sales Laura Molen proudly noted how E! viewers are 50% more likely to mention an advertiser product on social platforms when the advertiser partners with the channel. She’s eager to take things to the next perch.

“How do we create ways to engage with consumers on a deeper, more meaningful level?” she said.

Digital Enhancements

Facebook Live, Instagram, Snapchat and other social platforms will ensure that; as Stotsky puts it, there will be both a robust linear show on TV as well as plenty of digital enhancements to the action. “It’s an opportunity for us to create multiple points of connectivity,” in terms of show content, viewers and users, and advertisers, he said.

People’s Choice is an ideal match for E!, Stotsky said. “E! is ground zero for the biggest pop-culture events around the globe,” Stotsky said. “Everybody who is connected to this brand is super-excited.”