10 Years of ‘Access’: A Youthful Outlook

Nov 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

For an average telecast, per Nielsen Media Research, “Access Hollywood” attracts 3.2 million viewers. While that’s fewer than half the 6.7 million viewers drawn to its older competitor “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access” claims supremacy in head-to-head competition in the four largest markets among women ages 18 to 34, the benchmark demo in advertising sales for entertainment newsmagazines.

“‘Access Hollywood’ is a durable show,” said Frederick Huntsberry, executive VP of NBC Universal Television Distribution. “Entertainment magazines are in demand, particularly in the access time periods. With young audiences in particular, ‘Access Hollywood’ is showing expansion and growth.”

NBC Universal is quick to point out that 90 new daily first-run shows have premiered from fall 1996 to the present, with only 16 surviving. From the Class of 1996, only “Access” and “Judge Judy” remain.

“Access Hollywood” is strong in the largest markets, according to NBC Universal research based on May 2005 NSI SNAP figures. It scored a 3.1 household rating in New York, a 3.1 in Los Angeles, a 4.0 in Philadelphia and a 5.2 in Washington.

But with “Entertainment Tonight” clearly attracting more viewers overall, the “Access” research team prefers to focus on demographic and market numbers.

“We don’t have the largest audience,” said Adam Jordan, supervising producer. “But our audience is the youngest and best educated. We don’t just do movie clips, we try to tell a story about a movie.”

Among women 25 to 54, for example, per NSI SNAP figures for the same May book, “Access” topped “ET” in Los Angeles with a 2.2 rating to 1.7 for “ET.” Similarly, in Chicago, “Access” earned a 1.8 to a 1.7 for “ET,” and in Philadelphia, a 3.7 to “ET’s” 2.7.

NBC stations look to “Access” as a strong prime-time lead-in, said Jay Ireland, president of NBC Universal TV Stations. According to the NSI SNAP numbers, with women 18 to 34, “Access” built 27 percent over its own lead-in, and it built 15 percent among women 18 to 49.

“Certainly, we want to leverage the show to build audience for prime time,” Mr. Ireland said. “It does. We’re confident it will do more in the future.”

“We’re a trusted entity,” said Rob Silverstein, executive producer. “You’re seeing growth, particularly with the younger audience. Over time, that will all work in our favor.”

NBC Universal says the show’s median age is lower than that of other access informational or “infotainment” series, with a 48.2 compared with a 51.3 for “ET,” according to NSS GAA, and that more of its audience goes to see movies on their opening weekends than any other entertainment news show.

“What all this means is that we have a strong brand,” Mr. Huntsberry said. “It’s not just about the half-hour show because that is just one entity. We keep it strong. We move it more into access time periods. That’s what we can do with it.

“But when you think of digital technologies, our younger demographics become of greater interest,” he said. “Mobile phones, for example. ‘Access Hollywood’ can become a powerful brand in that, delivering entertainment news wherever the audience wants it. And we know the audience has a strong interest in celebrity news. Our audience is more likely to want such technology than that of our chief competitors.”