Celebrity Death Match

Anna Nicole tragedy boosts magazine ratings
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The death of 39-year-old model/actress Anna Nicole Smith Feb. 8 helped boost ratings for syndicated magazine shows. All five nationally syndicated magazines had double-digit weekly growth, according to overnight metered-market ratings for Feb. 8 and 9.

CBS Paramount’s Entertainment Tonight got the biggest bump, from a 5.1 to a 6.4 for the two days, a full 25%. ET spinoff The Insider jumped 19%, from a 2.7 to a 3.2.

Meanwhile, NBC Universal’s Access Hollywood was up 13%, from a 3.2 to a 3.6; CBS Paramount’s Inside Edition rose 12%, from a 3.4 to a 3.8; and Warner Bros.’ Extra jumped 11%, from a 2.8 to a 3.1.

The controversial widow of an octogenarian billionaire whose tabloid antics turned tragic last year when her 20-year-old son died mysteriously within days of her daughter’s birth, Smith has long been a recurring figure in the magazine shows. But Access Hollywood Executive Producer Rob Silverstein says he did not enjoy covering someone he considered a “fringe celebrity.”

“These types of stories are bottom-feeder stories,” he says of the continuing paternity dispute over Smith’s daughter. “Taste-wise, I don’t like them. It’s lowest-common-denominator stuff. We try not to get caught up in the Paris Hilton-ing of the world.”

But Silverstein admits that Smith became news when she died; it was Access that broke the news of her hospitalization on a tip from an NBC affiliate. And he took a swipe at rivals ET and The Insider for paying seven figures (according to Access executives) for an exclusive interview with Smith after her son’s death.

“They spent all that money and didn’t even break the story [of her hospitalization],” Silverstein says.

A CBS Paramount spokesperson denies payment for the interview: “Absolutely not. Accusations like this usually come from news organizations that don’t get the major exclusives.”

Sweeps Are Kind to Talkers, Magazines

Talk shows and magazines led gains among first-run strips as the February sweeps began. Rookie talker Rachael Ray scored a new season and series high, jumping 9%, to a 2.4 rating, in the week ended Feb. 4.

Although not yet cleared nationally, The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet reached a 1.5 rating/5 share in 27 metered markets in its third week. That’s a gain of 7% over its second week and a 15% improvement over its premiere week.

Tyra Banks improved most among veteran talkers, growing 23% to a 1.6. The other gainers were Oprah, up 4% to a 7.0; Dr. Phil, up 6% to a 5.3; Live With Regis and Kelly, up 3% to a 3.7; Maury, up 4% to a 2.5; and Montel Williams, up 13% to a 1.8.

Coverage of the Screen Actors Guild awards lifted magazine ratings across the board, but only The Insider hit a new season high, gaining 4% to a 2.9. Leader Entertainment Tonight gained 2% to a 5.7; Insider Edition rose 3% to a 3.7; Access Hollywood advanced 7% to a 3.1; and Extra climbed 4% to a 2.4.

Among court shows, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mathis and rookie Cristina’s Court all hit new season highs.

Access Goes to China

NBCU has licensed a Mandarin-language version of Access Hollywood in the People’s Republic of China, the first licensed format from a foreign studio to air in China, says the syndicator.

Access Hollywood China, a one-hour weekly show produced in Beijing under a deal with Small World Television, features entertainment stories from both China and the U.S. (via the flagship production).

Additional reporting by Rebecca Stropoli