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Seacrest empire growing at NBCU

Shift into news, producer role a high priority

The Ryan Seacrest business is growing in ways once thought unimaginable.

With his new two-year deal with NBCUniversal officially announced Friday, Seacrest becomes one of the most valuable assets at the conglom. The Georgia native will now be in front of the camera on some of the Peacock’s notable franchises, including appearances on ayem profit center “Today” and the London Summer Olympics. He’ll also contribute to primetime news programs.

Then there’s Ryan Seacrest Prods., which produces a handful of shows on NBCU-owned E!, including the cabler’s top series, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Shingle also has its stamp at Bravo with “The Shahs of Sunset.”

Outside the NBCU family, he continues to host Fox’s reality juggernaut “American Idol,” where he just signed up for two more years at a hefty $30 million. Seacrest also continues to host a daily four-hour early morning radio show on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles. That deal with Clear Channel runs through the end of 2013.

With so much on his plate, something had to give. That would be his daily on-air appearances on “E! News.” While he will still serve as the program’s managing editor — though the amount of time that job is more based on relationships and less being in the office — Seacrest hasn’t appeared as a co-host (along with Giuliana Ranic) since January, and now is officially done with that role.

In fact, his involvement with E! is likely to decrease from a producing standpoint as well. In the recently signed pact, Ryan Seacrest Prods. no longer has a first-look deal with the net and he and his shingle’s top exec, Adam Sher, will be shopping programs around the dial.

The new NBC opportunities are something Seacrest has been eyeing for awhile. He is clearly looking at challenges that go beyond promoting the next Kardashians special.

His shift into news makes sense for the Peacock, which is doing everything possible to retain eyeballs — whether it be the morning or in primetime. For the first time in 16 years, “Today” was overtaken by “Good Morning America” earlier this month and Seacrest may be able to lure some new viewers.

There was plenty of speculation that Seacrest would actually co-host “Today,” but the network kept Matt Lauer in the anchor desk with a new multiyear deal at $25 million per annum.

Seacrest’s shift over to “Today” and other programs under the news division represents a further softening of the walls between news and entertainment. It’s not a new phenomenon, but a continuing one that has some concerned.

Last week, for example, “NBC Nightly News” host Brian Williams appeared on the live “30 Rock” episode.

“The fact that the line between news and entertainment has been blurred was a headline 20 years ago,” said Marc Cooper, an associate professor at the USC Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication. “Now it has been erased. News is now just a different form of entertainment.”

Cooper said he doesn’t see Seacrest as credible in delivering hard news. But that’s not necessarily Seacrest’s fault.

“Anyone on TV news needs to be a personality. Whether they are good or bad is irrelevant as long as they are easy on the eyes,” Cooper said.

Gabriel Kahn, a professor and Annenberg colleague, said Seacrest’s move to NBC makes sense for the network.

“From a corporate perspective, it’s about how NBCUniversal can leverage its platforms and get the biggest bang for its buck. … It’s not much of a reputational risk for NBC. These morning shows have been de-newsified.”

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