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Smallscreen ‘Life’ leads to big global biz

Hilton transitions from 'Simple' to 'According'

Paris Hilton was a famous-for-being-famous party girl, but has made her mark as the first Page 6 socialite to parlay that fame into a TV brand worth millions.

It all started with “The Simple Life,” which debuted on Fox in 2003 to 13 million viewers — an instant sensation. Hilton invented the reality TV star template followed by those who came after her: most recently, the Kardashians.

To that end, Hilton was given the Reality Innovator award at the 2009 Fox Reality Channel Awards.

“The Simple Life” put Hilton in the homes of millions and made her a pop culture icon. But while “Simple” ended its U.S. run in 2007, it led other series opportunities.

In 2008, Hilton premiered “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF” on MTV. The series did two seasons in the U.S., spawned a British spinoff (“Paris Hilton’s My British Best Friend”) and one in Dubai (“Paris Hilton’s My Dubai BFF”), which is currently airing new episodes.

The television shows and personal appearances feed her global merchandising arm.

“She gets requests from every country in the world,” says Hilton’s manager, Jamie Freed. “The TV series have been such a big platform. Everything has grown from there.”

Everything includes 30 Paris Hilton stores and fragrances that have garnered more than $1.3 billion in revenue since 2004.

But after four seasons of the “BFF” shows, Hilton had had enough. “They wanted seasons all around the world, but I wanted to do something different,” she says.

Hence the germ of the “The World According to Paris,” now on Oxygen. Veteran executive producer Arthur Smith (“Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Trading Spaces”) was brought in.

“I was surprised — she was so conscientious, self-aware, articulate,” he says. “She wasn’t what I thought she’d be.”

Smith says Hilton was involved with developing a new show every step of the way. “She is a producer on the show and some things were uncomfortable,” he says. “It’s a bit of a soap opera, but she was smart enough to not censor it.”

Jason Klarman, president of Oxygen Media, says that Paris’ more complicated side is what the network was hoping would attract viewers. “We thought it was a great idea because Paris was 30 — a woman in transition,” he says. “That’s what we try to target. Paris has boyfriend, business, maybe baby.”

The goal with “World” was to focus on Hilton’s relationships. “‘The Simple Life’ was a bit of playing a part,” Smith says. “Paris had been asked to do a show like this before, but she wasn’t ready. She’s more comfortable with who she is now. And in the press, people only see a quick, superficial bit of what she’s like.”

But “The World According to Paris” debuted to disappointing ratings.

Despite the numbers, Oxygen is standing by the series. “She gets so much press that people cover everything intensely — including ratings,” Klarman says. “We think the show will grow as people get to know the format.”

BILLION-DOLLAR ENTREPRENEUR: PARIS HILTON
Business according to Paris | Timeline: Media blitz | Working with Paris | Smallscreen ‘Life’ leads to big global biz | They’ll always have Paris | Hilton covers customers from head to toe

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