Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Productions unit is contemplating turning its co-owned TMZ.com Website, which it co-owns with Time Warner’s AOL, into a magazine strip for syndication.
The TV show had been a part of the company’s long-term strategy, but “the last few days there have been more calls about it,” says Jim Paratore, executive VP of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and president of Telepictures.
While it is still too early to know whether it would proceed for a fall 2007 launch, TMZ.com has been basking in the glow of massive publicity this week after breaking news of actor-producer Mel Gibson’s drunken driving arrest, his subsequent tirade that included anti-Semitic remarks and an alleged cover-up of the most sordid facts by law enforcement.
“When you break a story of the magnitude, it really establishes the TMZ brand as a credible source,” Paratore says. “That is hard to do in a very congested media world.”
If the series proceeds, it is expected to be executive-produced by TMZ.com Managing Editor Harvey Levin and Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, senior executive producer of Telepictures syndicated newsmagazine Extra. The pair had produced Telepictures’ Celebrity Justice, which was cancelled last year after three seasons.
Since its launch last December, TMZ.com has established a record number of unique users each month, breaking a number of big stories along the way, according to Paratore.
It entered July at more than 9 million unique users, with Paratore expecting that number to climb past 10 million this month and surpass 11 million by August. Traffic soared this past weekend after the Gibson news broke, with TMZ.com making AOL fourth on the list of highest-viewed Web search engines, Paratore says.
The goal now, he notes, is to continue expanding the entertainment/celebrity site into other areas of pop culture, with more produced and user-generated videos. TMZ.com will add pages focused on TV and fashion by the end of August, with more planned later.