Citing a need for the “next generation” of news magazines, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (WBDTD) confirmed Monday that all Fox-owned stations have committed to its new fall 2007 TMZ magazine series and will provide double runs.
Under a multiyear, multiplatform licensing deal announced at a press conference announced on the eve of NATPE in Las Vegas, WBDTD President Ken Werner and others involved in the show noted that in the top three markets the series had been cleared on both the primary Fox station and their duopolies.
Also, that stations Websites would be able to access TMZ.com material and brand it as their own under an unprecedented arrangement. They can sell a local banner ad on the TMZ portion of their site and, within the show, will be offered for the typical 5 ½ minutes of local time while the syndicator retains 90 seconds per half hour.
Described as an irreverent, young-skewing magazine series along the lines of the popular Wesbite, co-owned by AOL and Telepictures, Werner says WBDTD will differentiate it from a host of other magazines by also appealing to younger viewers and men with a focus on n celebrities’ personal lives—in the growing tradition of celebrity magazines like People and Us Weekly.
The series comes from Warner Bros.-based Telepictures Prods., TMZ Managing Editor Harvey Levin Prods. and former Telepictures head Jim Paratore’s paraMedia. Levin and Paratore will serve as executive producers.
With production based in Los Angeles, it will be produced separately from Warner Bros. other magazine series, Extra, and have budgets (believed to be north of $1 million per week) and staffs comparable to other news magazines. No host has been named but Paratore left open the possibility of more than one (though Levin, a former TV newscaster and the face of TMZ, has indicated that he does not have a desire to anchor it).
It will feature video segments, investigative news reports, exclusive citizen video and other TMZ elements related to topical entertainment stories. Werner says the most newsworthy stories on the Website may be held back to break simultaneously with the TV show.
WBDTD was uncertain how many more clearances it would be able to announce by the end of the three-day programming convention on Thursday.
Under the plan, all TMZ station partners will have access to exclusive TMZ content for use on their websites, with Telepictures creating a TMZ-branded entertainment module that will reside on the station’s home page.
Additionally, in a quest to get stations outside of Fox markets to acquire the program for news adjacencies, the local “TMZ” site will function as a 24/7 “newsfeed” for its affiliates, providing “TMZ”-branded news reports and unedited footage for station use in local news telecasts.
Paratore envisions the show running along side sitcoms in early fringe, since TMZ appeals to men, and late fringe, when younger viewers watch. WBDTD President Ken Werner adds the show will acquire strong time periods at various times of day on the Fox stations, though declines to identify them.
Within seven months of its December 2005 launch, TMZ.com—a joint venture between Telepictures Productions and AOL—has become a top Web destination, reaching record levels in December (with 15.5 million unique viewers and 100 million page views) despite a lack of major breaking stories.
TMZ.com has broken several big entertainment stories in the last year, including the Mel Gibson DUI arrest and Michael Richards’ racist tirade.
“In today’s television landscape, there is big opportunity for a younger, more gender-balanced entertainment magazine with a distinct voice and point of view,” Werner says. “TMZ.com was created by Telepictures and AOL to fill a need in the broadband world for an entertainment news site run by professionals experienced in that world.In a very short time, they have established the most highly trafficked entertainment news site on the web and a brand that under the leadership of Jim Paratore and Harvey Levin will translate in a powerful way in the TV world.”
“What we are buying into is a proven, immensely successful internet brand,” adds Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming at Fox Television Stations.“The unique combination of broadcast and broadband this project brings makes it extremely attractive.”
“The combination of the TMZ brand—and its ability to break stories and tell them from a different point of view—combined with our track record at producing magazine programming will translate into a compelling series,” notes Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Telepictures. “This is a terrific example of how broadcasters, program suppliers and new media can combine their respective areas of expertise to break new ground in programming.”