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Entertainment Mags Gain New Perspective - Broadcasting & Cable

Entertainment Mags Gain New Perspective

Syndicated shows following news trend of weaving in commentary
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Entertainment newsmagazines—in particular NBC Universal's Access Hollywood, CBS' The Insider and Warner Bros.' Extra—are shaking up their formats by having the shows' correspondents offer perspectives on the celebrity news of the day.

“To act like people are hearing news for the first time at 7:30 p.m. doesn't make sense,” says Rob Silverstein, Access Hollywood's executive producer. “We have to give the news, but we also have to give the added value of our knowledge.”

“The future of these shows is deconstructing the packaging and structure of Hollywood, and really letting viewers in on what goes on inside,” adds Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, Extra's senior executive producer.

For its new “What Side Are You On?” segment, Entertainment Tonight spinoff The Insider is turning its host and reporters into a panel of commentators, comprised of host Lara Spencer, correspondent Samantha Harris, new hire Chris Jacobs and a daily guest. Style Network's Niecy Nash and Sharon Osbourne are expected to be regulars.

“This is a way to make Insider different than ET,” says Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of both shows. “It's breaking news with opposing views.”

Besides asking its correspondents to give their opinions, Access is trying out new segments. “In Case You Missed It” finds Silverstein meeting with staffers to chat about that day's news. Access is also adding “Final 45,” which gives a 45-second sum-up at each show's end, and “Watch This!,” which gives viewers a heads-up on what's good on TV that night.

Online, AccessHollywood.com has added AHNation, which allows viewers to comment on stories and segments on the Website and on Twitter. Access will then incorporate those reactions into the show.

Extra made its show much more interactive last season, completely revamping its Website and allowing viewers to pose questions to new host Mario Lopez via online video services. Extra also has added two new correspondents, Jeannie Mai and Lauren Sanchez. Mai comes to the show from NBC's Today and the Style Network; Sanchez has been an anchor and entertainment reporter for Fox's Los Angeles duopoly.

The shows' producers are hoping the tweaks help. Like all of syndication, and most of television for that matter, entertainment newsmagazines have experienced ratings drops over the past three years. In 2004, ET averaged a 4.9 household rating for the season, a number it duplicated in 2005. In 2006, that number climbed to a 5.1. CBS' Inside Edition and Access each had peak years in 2006 as well, at a 3.4 and 2.6, respectively. Since 2006, every syndicated magazine has declined except Warner Bros.' TMZ, which debuted in 2007 and is now tied for third with Access at a 2.0 season average.

Since 2006, ET's season average has dropped 20%, Inside Edition has fallen 15%, Access has lost 23%, The Insider has declined 28% and Extra is down 24%.

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