‘Access’ Takes Its Show on the Road

Aug 22, 2005  •  Post A Comment

For its 10-year anniversary “Access Hollywood” is hitting the road and bringing its cellphone along on the trip.

Starting Aug. 29, the NBC Universal entertainment newsmagazine strip will broadcast from a bus as it travels across the country for more than two weeks before returning to Los Angeles, just in time for the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony Sept. 18.

The lead sponsor for the bus tour is Verizon Wireless, which is touting its V Cast subscriber-based 3G multimedia service that allows its cellular telephone customers to watch one- to five-minute color videos on their phones.

The Verizon Wireless V Cast Access Across America Tour starts in Miami, the day after the MTV Video Music Awards are hosted there. The bus tour marks the first “Access Hollywood” road trip since its inaugural season, Rob Silverstein, the show’s executive producer, said.

“Years ago we did a road trip to the Grammys on a bus,” Mr. Silverstein said, noting that then-correspondent Jeff Probst made the trip from Los Angeles to New York. But instead of just a correspondent, anchors Nancy O’Dell and Billy Bush will be on board, leading the show from the field.

“This makes us vibrant; this makes us different,” Mr. Silverstein said. “No show has ever taken the entire show on the road for a day or two, let alone three weeks.”

Other than Miami, Mr. Silverstein declined to name the cities “Access Hollywood” will visit but said the stops would not be only markets with NBC owned-and-operated stations, all of which air the corporately owned show. “There were a number of factors,” he said. “What’s the best route, knowing you have to stop every day? Then we went, ‘What markets do we want to go into? Where are the great stories? Where are we launching? Where are we upgrading?’ All those things were taken into consideration.”

Guessing where the road trip goes next will be a tool to drive viewer interest.

“We’re going to give hints,” Mr. Silverstein said, pointing out that local television and radio stations will be partners in contest giveaways.

“There’s definitely affiliate involvement with this,” he added.

The chance to partner with “Access Hollywood” stood out among the many pitches Verizon Wireless receives, said John Harrobin, VP of advertising for Verizon Wireless, said.

“As an advertiser we get pitched a gazillion opportunities,” he said. “We act on very few.”

One attraction was that the tour start date, Aug. 29, also marks the national launch of V Cast. “Access Hollywood’s” own content served as another draw for the wireless provider.

“Their content is the kind of content that allows us to engage our subscriber base with V Cast,” Mr. Harrobin said. “It also allows them to continue to build their brand and engage their subscriber base when they are not on TV.”

“Access Hollywood” will also create V Cast-specific programming during the bus tour, which will be mentioned during broadcasts. A regular buyer of local-market ad time on “Access Hollywood,” Verizon Wireless could continue its relationship with the show after the bus tour, Mr. Harrobin said.

“We’ll see how this goes and see how we can partner together beyond this,” he said.