TMZ's TV success relies on keeping tone

It appears as if Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and the E! network just aren't enough to sate the hunger people have for celebrity news and gossip. At least that's what the creators of TMZ.com are betting on.

It appears as if Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and the E! network just aren't enough to sate the hunger people have for celebrity news and gossip. At least that's what the creators of TMZ.com are betting on.

Last week, the Warner Bros. and AOL-backed TMZ.com launched TMZ TV, a daily syndicated half-hour TV version of its gossip-heavy Web site. TMZ.com has thrived online and has become one of the top - if not the top - entertainment news sites in the country. It has broken a number of stories, including the death of Anna Nicole Smith and Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rant. It also was first to post video of Michael Richards' racist screamfest.

But what's driven the success of the Web site has been TMZ's relentless updating of the site with news and video. The same can be said for a number of other entertainment/celebrity news sites, including gossip blogger Perez Hilton (who also launched a TV show, What Perez Sez, last week on music channel VH1).

So the question becomes: Will TMZ be able to bring that fast-paced element that has been so critical to its online success to television?

Katie Caperton, editorial manager at OK! magazine, says it won't be an easy mission.

"They've taken on this extremely daunting task of trying to translate this in-the-moment, in-your-face Web site and making it work for television," Caperton says. "The attention span of someone who goes to their site is entirely different than someone who will sit down to watch a 30-minute TV show."

But after viewing the premiere episode of TMZ TV, Caperton says it's on the right track.

"They're doing something that feels almost like a Web site, in the sense that you get these really quick items and funny little gimmicks," Caperton says. "There's certainly a market for it, and they'll find their niche, it just might take a little while."

Andy Marks, MD of Matter, an Edelman entertainment company, says jumping to television is a natural evolution for sites like TMZ.com.

"It's indicative of the trend of being able to build a media brand on the Web quickly as an authority," Marks says. "And that model of translation of programming from the Web to TV and back again is something you will see a lot more of."

The other component to TMZ.com's success has been its use of raw, unedited video footage of celebrities being themselves - which can mean anything from being drunk and disorderly to just going out to dinner. It's using this same type of footage on its TV show, which helps distinguish it from shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.

Caperton says the use of this type of video, as opposed to the more polished, sit-down type of interviews you see on other shows, feeds the public's need for behind-the-scenes access.

"These other shows work with celebrity publicists to get interviews, and [TMZ TV] is nothing like that," says Caperton. She doubts, though, that TMZ TV will completely replace those older mainstays, "because I can't see any of the more highly polished shows going away." But she believes that there's a TV audience for both.

"I think, especially on TV, there's this untapped market for this really hard-core reality," Caperton explains. "It's [exposing] the underside of these Hollywood goings-on, and people definitely want to see all of those things. There's certainly a market for people wanting to see a celebrity not looking their best."

Marks says a key for TMZ TV's success will be whether the show carries the same irreverent attitude as the site.

"TMZ is not necessarily accommodating celebrities in any way," he says. "Those other shows have to please a lot of people. If [TMZ] brings the same kind of humor and attitude it has on its site to the show, it will be interesting to see if it does take hold."

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