‘ET’ deal is Hart warming

Host pumps new projects with renewal

Mary Hart, who has been the face of “Entertainment Tonight” for two decades, will stay on through her 25th season after sealing a five-year deal worth more than $5 million annually.

As part of the deal, Hart will have heightened creative input as the “ET” franchise, now in its 21st season, expands. (Hart started in the show’s second season, so her deal extends through “ET’s” 26th season.) Among spinoff ideas under discussion are a kids-oriented project as well as a celebrity homes show.

“From day one, (Hart’s) commitment to the show and her profession has played an integral role in helping to build ‘ET’ into the syndication powerhouse it has become,” said Par Domestic TV prexy Joel Berman.

“ET” is one of the most successful and long-running TV shows on the air. Last year, the show tied “Oprah” as the highest-rated syndicated program among women 25-54. “ET” also consistently ranks among the top five syndicated shows in household ratings.

“This is a totally new deal with a much broader scope in terms of her talent and input,” Greg Meidel, programming prexy for Paramount Domestic Television, told Daily Variety.

“We are looking at synergistic ways to extend the ‘ET’ brand, and Mary will be an integral part to that, whether it’s ‘ET Kids,’ ‘ET Celebrity Homes’ or any of the other ideas we’re discussing,” Meidel added, calling Hart “synonymous” with “ET.” “She may elect to be on the air with them or to be the one to cast the ‘Mary Hart’ of ‘ET Kids,’ to pick out the most charming 8-year-old girl for that job.”

“To have been a cornerstone in the creation of this kind of franchise is a real privilege,” Hart told Daily Variety. “I have loved being a part of it, and that is the reason for the new and expanded contract. I’m remaining part of a family I’ve been part of for a very long time, and that feels great.”

Prior to the five-year contract now being renewed, Hart’s deal stipulated that she had the option to anchor the show for life. Upon sealing her last deal, she and Par agreed to renew on a five-year basis.

“There were lots of good reasons on both sides for doing that,” Hart told Daily Variety. Among the tradeoffs, Hart’s deal became more lucrative. “I didn’t need the word ‘lifetime’ in the contract,” she added. “I’ve already been here a lifetime by most TV standards!”

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