Warner Bros.’s ‘TMZ’ Deal Gives Stations Show, Web Content

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution sold its entertainment news magazine “TMZ” to the Fox Television Stations group, but the deal involves more, giving stations Web content intended to draw users to their Web sites.

The multi-year agreement between Warner Bros. and the station group had been expected (TelevisionWeek, Jan. 15), as Fox sought alternatives to help fill a hole on many schedules left by the cancellation of “Geraldo at Large.” “TMZ,” which hunts out entertainment stories in the “thirty mile zone” around Hollywood, started as a Web site that rocketed in popularity as it provided exclusive video on stories including Mel Gibson’s drunk driving arrest last year.

Under the deal, “TMZ” producer Telepictures will create a branded module that will reside on the stations’ home pages, creating an entertainment news component. Stations struggling with a difficult local-TV advertising market are looking for features to add to their sites to bolster Web traffic and ad sales.

The “TMZ” module will be updated around-the-clock with information on stories featured in the daily “TMZ” program, creating an around-the-clock newsfeed for station sites. Under the deal, stations also will receive un-edited footage they can use in local news telecasts.

“Today’s audience wants a fresh, unvarnished look at celebrities and the world of entertainment,” said Jim Paratore, who will serve as executive producer of the series with TMZ.com managing editor Harvey Levin. “With TMZ.com, we have proven that we can break the stories and create the features they want. ‘TMZ’ will not only be the hottest entertainment magazine on TV, ‘TMZ’ will give local stations a competitive edge on their Web sites and in their local news.”

Under terms of the deal, stations will receive 5 1/2 minutes of ad time for the half-hour strip, as well as an hour-long weekend version of the show. Warner Bros. will receive cash plus 1 1/2 minutes of ad time.

“What we are buying into is a proven, immensely successful Internet brand,” said Frank Cicha, SVP of programming for Fox Television Stations. “The unique combination of broadcast and broadband this project brings makes it extremely attractive.”

The half-hour series is designed to bring the TMZ.com brand to television, expanding upon the popular entertainment news Web site’s take on celebrities and their real lives. According to Warner Bros., since the Web site’s launch in December 2005, TMZ.com, a joint venture between Telepictures Productions and AOL, ranks as the top entertainment news destination on the Internet. The site is best known for breaking the Gibson arrest, “Seinfeld” actor Michael Richards’s racist rant at the Laugh Factory, and the breakup of the marriage of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline.

“In today’s television landscape, there is big opportunity for a younger, more gender-balanced entertainment magazine with a distinct voice and point of view,” said Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “TMZ.com was created by Telepictures and AOL to fill a need in the broadband world for an entertainment news site run by professionals experienced in that world.”

(Editor: Baumann)