In Depth

Obama Effect: Syndicated Newsmagazines Surge

‘Access,’ ‘ET’ Win by Covering ‘Celebrity’ Candidate

Barack Obama’s election as president is fueling ratings among syndicated television newsmagazine shows—and they are returning the favor.

It’s a symbiosis in which shows such as “Access Hollywood” and “Entertainment Tonight” cover the Obama family like royalty, bringing back a Camelot mythology to the White House. In return, they are enjoying a ratings bump with unexpected staying power.

“We’re going to treat the Obamas like a Hollywood family,” said Rob Silverstein, executive producer of NBC Universal Television Distribution’s “Access Hollywood.”

The Obama family with Maria Menounos

ROYAL TREATMENT "Access Hollywood's" Maria Menounos interviewed the Obama family back in July.

“Access Hollywood” landed the first Obama family interview in July, and the show has continued to cover the election as if it’s a red-carpet event, Mr. Silverstein said. The show even mocked up what a potential White House bedroom would look like for the Obamas’ daughters, Malia and Sasha.

The rough economy and financial belt-tightening also are driving an increased interest in politics, which is being reflected on “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider,” said the shows’ executive producer, Linda Bell Blue.

Both “ET” and “The Insider,” syndicated by CBS Television Distribution, are following election-related topics that interest women, Ms. Bell Blue said. That means covering Michelle Obama’s fashion choices and celebrities who are going to attend the inauguration in January.

Growing interest and coverage of the Obamas may reverse a ratings trend in the newsmagazines, as the genre, along with the rest of syndication, is down year-to-year. If viewers continue to tune in to learn about the Obamas, it might transform the president-elect into the standard go-to subject of newsmagazines, like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan.

The newsmagazine shows are trying to capitalize on a ratings boost that began in the weeks leading up to the election.

For the week ending Oct. 26, every single show in the genre grew from the previous week in household ratings, a rare feat. The following week, one week before the election, every single show in the newsmagazine genre either rose to or held steady with its season ratings high.

While celebrity-related news did break during those weeks, including the murders of actress Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew, a majority of it was election-centric.

During the week of the election, the genre saw a group downturn in the ratings thanks to several major-market preemptions.

In the week following the election, all of the newsmagazine shows bounced back and ended up tying their pre-election season-high numbers in overnight metered-market ratings. While it’s not a direct comparison to national numbers, the overnights paint a good portrait as to where the shows will rank once final numbers for the week are released by Nielsen.

Mr. Silverstein said he expects “Access’” ratings to climb further in the post-election phase, as viewers return to their normal viewing habits. He said the buildup to President-elect Obama’s inauguration is going to be a big story for “Access,” which is planning on-site coverage of the Washington, D.C., scene in January.

Newsmagazine shows will receive a boost in ratings regardless, as awards season tends to be a big draw, Ms. Bell Blue said.

With more coverage of the Obamas to come, the inauguration could produce a big ratings bonus.