LAS VEGAS — In a last-minute announcement on the eve of NATPE, Warner Bros. took the wraps off a multiyear deal with the Fox O&Os for a daily strip based on its Web sensation “TMZ.”
The launch of such a high-profile firstrun project could help put the oomph back into what seemed a likely lackluster tradeshow, with few new entries from the major Hollywood studios.
But just in the past few days, NBC U closed some initial deals for a gabber with Steve Wilkos, who until recently toiled in the shadow of talkshow vet Jerry Springer as the show’s bouncer. Deals for the Wilkos project have been closed with both Tribune and Sinclair stations.
Twentieth TV meanwhile is launching both its “Morning Show With Mike & Juliet” and a gameshow called “Temptation,” while Sony is fielding courtshow contender “Judge David Young.” (Unless there’s a huge surprise on the NATPE floor, neither King World/Paramount nor Disney are bringing a new project to Sin City.)
The new Warners strip will be targeted to “a younger-skewing, more balanced audience and will air on Fox in very good time periods,” said Warner Bros. Domestic TV prexy Ken Werner. Deals will be cash-plus-barter, in a typical 5½-1½ split, meaning the studio will retain three 30 seconds and local stations get eleven 30-second spots.
Werner, who is at his first NATPE as a syndie topper, spoke to journalists Monday in the company’s hotel suite where he and Telepictures prexy Hilary Estey McLoughlin and paraMedia founder Jim Paratore put the accent on “precedent-setting multiplatform elements to the show.”
The strip does not yet have a host (or hosts), but TMZ.com exec producer Harvey Levin is not expected to play that role. (Paratore will be exec producer of the TV strip.)
Unlike the other key entertainment mags in syndication such as “E.T.,” “Insider” and Warner’s own “Extra,” “TMZ” will be edgier, with a stronger point of view and fast-paced behind-the-scenes video.
“It will be relatively unfiltered,” says Estey McLoughlin, adding it’s that kind of show that’s likely to attract more young males.
If it works, “TMZ” could also be the first Web-to-firstrun syndie success.
It’s still unclear whether Warner Bros. will also bring out its other high-profile strip, “Celebrity Jury,” which would likely join the company’s other courtshow strips (“People’s Court” and “Judge Mathis”) — if timeslots open up.
In response to the growing interest in new media outlets, “TMZ” is being pitched to stations as a chance to bring added value to their own Web sites and newscasts.
Paratore said all station partners will have access to exclusive “TMZ” content for use on their Web sites. Telepictures will create a “TMZ”-branded module that will reside on the stations’ home pages, creating a “TMZ”-branded destination updated around the clock.
Additionally, the local “TMZ” site will function as a 24/7 newsfeed for its affiliates.
Werner said he expected likely station buyers would include young-skewing CW affils and the third-ranked news O&O station among the Big Three in whatever market, which would be looking to boost revenues from news. He would not be drawn into speculating on the costs of producing such a show, but he did say there would be no overlap with staff or resources with “Extra.” Outsiders opine that entertainment mags can cost as much as $1 million a week to produce.
“TMZ” will be produced in Los Angeles by Harvey Levin Prods. and Paratore’s paraMedia in association with Telepictures.
Since its launch in December 2005, TMZ.com — a joint venture between Telepictures and AOL — has enjoyed a meteoric rise, becoming arguably the No. 1 entertainment news destination on the Internet within seven months of its debut.
Meanwhile, final boards were being nailed into place on the NATPE convention floor at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Some 8,000 participants are expected to stream in to the various booths or attend the 50-odd panels and workshops which have been planned for the three-day confab.
Some 500 or so early-bird arrivals attended a day-long session Monday devoted to Mobile, which featured speakers including CBS’ David Poltrack, Microsoft’s Blair Westlake and FremantleMedia’s Gary Carter.