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‘Insider’ Aims for Fall Launch

Jan 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

No, the woes of Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Kobe Bryant, Paris Hilton and Robert Blake aren’t the impetus behind Paramount Domestic Television’s launch of “Entertainment Tonight’s” first full-scale syndicated series spinoff.
When “The Insider” debuts as a nightly half-hour newsmagazine Sept. 13, there undoubtedly will be new celebrity developments to track, with exclusive news and interviews and intriguing behind-the-scenes locales to unveil. A December “ET” visit to California Men’s Colony-Mr. Jackson’s potential prison should he be convicted-should be a good clue of that.
“The Insider” started last season as a short “ET” segment running three times a week and grew this season into more fleshed-out nightly appearances, which is all part of a strategy to familiarize viewers with what is to come.
With the exception of Dr. Phil McGraw, who appeared once a week on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” before spinning off into his own eponymous Paramount show, “The Insider” is “the first time that we’ve had the opportunity to test material five days a week,” said John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television. “These days, any leg up in launching a show in syndication is beneficial.”
Already “The Insider” has been cleared in 82 percent of the country, with the majority in prime access slots.
The show will launch with 90-plus percent of the country, Mr. Nogawski said. “It was a strategic sale. Here’s a program on the air 23 years. It’s always been a question of when, not if, we’d launch a companion to `ET.”’
About 21/2 years ago, Paramount started developing the show, deciding how it could differentiate it from `ET’ but still complement it.
“We started showing the program we’d been developing to CBS O&Os the summer of ’02, then constructed a deal with them around December of that year to launch in fall ’04,” Mr. Nogawski said. Outside of CBS owned-and-operated stations, “The Insider” will appear on a potpourri of ABC and NBC affiliates, similar to the “ET” lineup.
“As time has gone by, America’s interest in celebrities has become insatiable,” said Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of “ET” and “The Insider.” “The viewers want more of this information,” added Terry Wood, executive VP of programming, Paramount Domestic Television. “We study their interests. They give us feedback online. We know there’s an interest for more, not more of the same.”
On those “ET” stations that will air “The Insider”-about half the country-“Insider” will precede or follow its next of kin 70 percent of the time.
“It’s formatted to run in tandem or separate from `ET,”’ Mr. Nogawski said. “The content will stand on its own.”
“The Insider” will have its own point of view, production style and storytelling approach, Ms. Wood added, although she is reluctant to share details about its format, look or host, who is now being finalized. Once the series launches, the “ET” segment of the same name will be dropped.
While “ET” typically features 14 stories per show, “The Insider,” will focus on eight to nine stories, offering what it calls “behind-closed-door reports,” “insider information from knowledgeable sources” and more in-depth reporting. “There is far more material than we can ever fit into `ET,”’ Ms. Blue said. “Everyone wants to be on `ET,’ and there simply is not room to get it all in.”
And, no, the steady stream of Hollywood misfortunes won’t be the sole focus.
“`The Insider’ will cover people and stories about someone, whether it’s a celebrity, an Olympic hero or someone in the news that America is talking about,” Ms. Blue said.