Last summer, Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, Extra's senior executive producer, was fooling around on Facebook when she realized her TV show needed to follow a similar model if it was going to remain appealing to young audiences.
So she brought in Mario Lopez to host and fully revamped both the show's format and its Website.
“We really try to validate the name Extra every single day and give our fans something extra,” she says.
Those changes—which include more giveaways, interactivity and community features—have paid off. Last August, ExtraTV.WarnerBros.com received 2.8 million page views. By January, it was up to 7.7 million page views, according to Web research firm comScore Media Metrix. Since October, the site's unique visitors are up by 118%, and its total visits are up by 94%. In December, the site hit all-time highs of 997,000 visits and 685,000 unique visitors.
By time spent, ExtraTV.com is the top-rated entertainment news site, beating sister site TMZ.com as well as ETOnline.com, AccessHollywood.com, TheInsider.com and InsideEdition.com with an average of 4.6 minutes spent on the site per user visit.
The Website and the TV show create what Gregorisch-Dempsey and Bob Mohler, executive in charge of new media for Warner Bros.' Telepictures division, call a 360 degree experience. “It starts two ways, either on-air or online. Mario might ask fans on-air to submit their questions [online], and then we take those questions and put [them] back on the show,” Mohler says. “It goes around like that.”
Although the Website's metrics are way up, the show—like most things in syndication—is down year to year. Season to date, Extra is averaging a 1.7 live-plus-same-day household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, down 6% from last year. The show is down 25% among women 18-34; 10% among women 18-49; and 8% among women 25-54.
That may be because Extra lost two key time slots this season: 7 p.m. on NBC Universal-owned WNBC New York and 7 p.m. on WTVJ Miami. WNBC moved the show to 5:30 p.m. and WTVJ to 4:30 p.m., replacing it with local newscasts in access.
Still, fans are flocking to the Web site, tuning in for Lopez’ live once-a-week chat or hoping to win one of Extra’s extravagant giveaways. The giveaways, which thus far have included things like a trip for two to the Inauguration or to last weekend’s Oscars telecast, appear daily and have become an integral part of what Extra does, says Gregorisch-Dempsey.
To qualify for the giveaways, fans need to sign up as an “Extra friend.” Since Extra started running that promotion, the show’s community has grown from zero in September to 344,000 last Wednesday. The feature has grown so popular that Extra has made a point of incorporating giveaways into many of its stories, says Gregorisch-Dempsey. “For example, if we’re covering [fashion designer] Robert Rodriguez, we’ll ask him to give us ten items out of his fall line and then do a profile on him and pair it with a giant giveaway of his clothes.”
Gregorisch-Dempsey is finding that tying her show to the Internet helps her produce. “The world and cyberspace are my assignment desk,” she says. She developed new features such as “Lifechangers,” in which Hollywood's elite doctors answer health and medical questions, and “Luxaholics,” which tells consumers how to find luxury items for less, largely online.
“Online is an instant focus group,” Mohler says.
“People have tried for years to do the Internet on TV. It didn't work and it was a bore,” Gregorisch-Dempsey says. “The way we're doing it adds dimension to the viewer experience.”
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