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E! changes gears in Emmy coverage

Cabler provided only end-to-end b'cast of official postponement

This article was updated on Oct. 8, 2001.

HOLLYWOOD — Nobody ever confused E!’s news with CNN, but on Sunday both cable networks were busy covering their respective beats live and in detail.

E! went live on the West Coast just after 1 p.m. PT (the net had been live on the East Coast since 11 a.m. PT), delivering continual coverage of the goings-on at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where the Emmy show slated for Sunday evening ultimately was postponed.

E! had planned to produce a six-hour preshow from the Shrine that would air live on the East Coast starting at 2 p.m. ET. It was to be tape-delayed in the West, to start at 2 p.m. PT. A one-hour post-Emmy show also was skedded.

About two hours into the net’s coverage and just a few hours after the U.S. began military strikes in Afghanistan, E! went live in the West — shortly after the net got word that the Emmys might be called off.

The net’s live coverage, which included the only end-to-end broadcast of the official press conference announcing the postponement of Sunday’s ceremony, lasted 4-1/2 hours. Pre-produced Emmy packages filled the rest of the time put aside for kudocast-related coverage.

“It’s great that we were live; as the story was breaking, we were able to tell the people exactly what was happening down here,” E! senior VP of original programming John Rieber told Daily Variety by phone, as his net wrapped up its live coverage and the red carpet was being rolled up around him.

“While we were live, people started tearing down banners, dragging Emmy statues out and taking the flowers away,” he added. “It crystallized why we had changed our coverage plans in the first place.”

In light of plans for the Emmy telecast to be subdued to match the general mood of the country, E! decided last week to forgo its traditional red carpet coverage and fashion review by Joan and Melissa Rivers. Instead it planned news-oriented segs.

“We always say these awards are our Super Bowls. On breaking entertainment news we should be live, first and longest. And our cameras were everywhere,” Rieber added.

While Rieber’s cameras were everywhere at the Shrine, E! personalities Steve Kmetko and Jules Asner were at E! studios getting ready to head to the awards venue. The “E! News Daily” duo was set to anchor the net’s preshow, but Rieber told them to stay put at the studio.

“They were getting ready to come down at the point when (news of attacks in Afghanistan) started to break. Security appeared to clamp down, and we weren’t sure they would be able to get here,” Rieber said. “There were fire trucks, bomb squads, people talking about potentially dangerous things going on, so at that point we made the decision to stick with the team we had here.”

Among E!’s on-air contributors were Linda Grasso, Tom O’Neil, Wanda, Michael Castner, Patrick Stinson and Melissa Rivers. Rivers, who was slated to host the post-show seg with Todd Newton, was not scheduled to report during the pre-show. However, she was onsite to talk about the post-show and wound up pitching-in.

“It’s a difficult day for America,” E! exec VP of entertainment Mark Sonnenberg said. “We’re obviously disappointed that the Emmys were postponed from today, but we support the Academy and the industry. And if they reschedule, we’ll be back.”

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