Nine months after doubling the length of its “E! News Daily” newscast to an hour at the behest of programming overseer Rich Frank, E! Entertainment Television is returning to a half-hour format effective March 30.
E! prexy and CEO Lee Masters said Thursday that the second 30 minutes of the daily entertainment news program was bleeding cash, and it was the view of the E! management team that the 60-minute experiment, which kicked off July 1, hadn’t worked out as they would have liked.
“An hour is a lot of time to fill,” Masters said, “and we felt that we could take the millions we were spending on that second half-hour and pump it into the production of some of our original shows like ‘The E! True Hollywood Story,’ a show that’s moving the meter for us.”
Masters explained that a recent consumer research survey of the TV audience conducted by the Sterling Group indicated that “while people do want news from us and expect it from us, they don’t view us as a news source primarily, but a place to be entertained. So while we were pouring a fortune into that second half-hour, we weren’t getting any credit for it from the viewers.”
The news expansion sprouted from the majority acquisition of E! by managing partner C3 (Frank’s company) and Comcast Corp. and financial partner Disney in April. Frank’s plan was to create a unique identity for E! that included pumping up the E! news commitment and making it “the channel of record” for the entertainment industry.
But after slightly more than a half-year, Comcast pulled back and C3 relinquished management control of E! in December.
Masters indicated there was internal skepticism at E! about expanding the news to an hour “but we did it. And it didn’t work as we would have liked. That’s not a knock at Rich. It wasn’t a bad idea. We just felt we had to put our resources in a different place.”
E! added as many as 100 staffers while ramping up its original programming commitment last year. It’s uncertain what staff trims, if any, will now be necessary in the wake of the news cutback, or if staff will simply get shuttled over to other E! productions.