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James Hibberd

Harbert's Not-So-Simple Life

July 12, 2006 1:49 PM

E! Networks President and CEO Ted Harbert is trying to get Paris and Nicole back together. For the recently announced fifth season of “Simple Life,” Harbert is adamant the feuding duo share camera time together. The fourth season kept the socialites separate in all but the first and final scenes of the season to accommodate the girls’ public falling out. 

“I want them on screen together, definitely,” he said.


Harbert was sitting in an empty ballroom after his TCA panel. He recently broke two ribs falling in the bathroom and was a bit stiff. Still, the panel went well and he was in high spirits. And Harbert in high spirits is an inherently likeable guy – witty and self-effacing. You genuinely want him to turn the network around. E! ratings are on the rise – up 12 percent among 18 to 49 last quarter -- but the channel is still searching for a breakout hit original show.


As an example of recent success, Harbert pointed to “E! News,” how the show’s ratings are up and the median age has dropped since Ryan Seacrest joined as co-anchor.


“’E News’ average age is 31 years old,” he said. “’Entertainment Tonight’ is 52. ‘Access’ and ‘Extra’ are 48. We’re 17 years younger than our closest competitor.”


Recently, Harbert has been meeting with talent agencies to request pitches for scripted programming.


“I want ‘Entourage,’ I want ‘Nip/Tuck,’” he said. “What I want is good, what I want is quality. If the ratings are great, great. More important is that I want a show that is the favorite for some.”


Harbert sighs.


“I was having breakfast with my 80-year-old mother and she asked me what’s my long-term vision for E!”


She did not.


“Swear to God.”


What did you tell her?


“That I’m gonna put on some hit shows and keep my job.”








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