MEDIA: Access Hollywood gears up for the Oscars - NBC’s Access Hollywood may not have the ratings of rival Entertainment Tonight but some people think it’s hipper. As Claire Atkinson discovers, the show’s executive producer wants i

Next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony is the biggest day of the year for entertainment publicists. Getting your client the right exposure during the run-up is critical.

Next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony is the biggest day of the year for entertainment publicists. Getting your client the right exposure during the run-up is critical.

Next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony is the biggest day of the

year for entertainment publicists. Getting your client the right

exposure during the run-up is critical.

For many, Access Hollywood is one of the best places to have your


Its ratings might be lower than rival Entertainment Tonight, but the

daily magazine show is a must-watch in the star-centric markets of New

York and Los Angeles.

The competition for coverage is heating up, however, and co-executive

producer Rob Silverstein has rejected a lot of what he’s been


’We look at films and ask who’s in it? Are people interested in this

person or in that story,’ he says.

The staff starts work at 4:30 am PST and by 7:30 am Silverstein has a

run-down of what is going into the 22 minutes of airtime he has to


The NBC-produced show is taped between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm and shown at

different times across the country.

The co-executive producer, who works with a team of senior producers and

segment producers, has a pitching session daily and a serious planning

session weekly. ’We want to know from everyone, what’s the Access

Hollywood angle?’ he says. ’Basically then it’s a yea or nay.’

Silverstein joined the show when it first launched four years ago. He is

a three-time Emmy Award-winning sports producer. The pacy format and

punchy delivery is reminiscent of sports casting, so it’s no wonder that

Silverstein’s aim is: ’To make Access Hollywood the SportsCenter of

entertainment shows.’

The native New Yorker is now located on the left coast and says, ’Our

relationship with publicists is tremendous. They love our hipness, and

celebrities like to be on the show.’

Silverstein describes Oscar weekend: ’It is like an army going to


We have 10 cameras and we bring back all the material; the arrivals,

what happened at the show and for 48 hours nobody sleeps. We get our

best stuff there, it is our Super Bowl.’

Movies are Access Hollywood’s biggest topic anyway, getting a daily

mention among the 15 to 17 stories that run each show.

The producers work four different beats - film, TV, music and news

(which they all cover) - and are also assigned specific film studios.

Access Hollywood has a New York bureau with two to three crews who can

shoot at a moment’s notice. The office is equipped with editing

facilities that allow it to feed into the LA office.

But Access Hollywood producers are not just listening to pitches, they

are out there shoring up relationships with the likes of publicity firms

Rogers & Cowan and PMK. ’We want to pitch publicists,’ says


’We are trying to be pro-active. It is not good enough just to go on the

set anymore. We have to ask, what do we want from this?’

The Oscars are not the only awards that bring in viewers for the

magazine show. This year Access Hollywood dedicated its entire February

24 program to a post-day round-up of the Grammy Awards, which reaped the

highest-ever ratings. Nationally it scored a four rating/1 share,

against its season-to-date performance of a 2.3 rating (about 2.9

million viewers).

Those figures have helped increase interest in music items.

Shira Berk, publicity manager at Rolling Stone magazine, says she

pitches the show all the time. ’We did a cover story on Santana, who had

given us an exclusive, and Access Hollywood did a piece with our music

editor. They’ll take your story and don’t really care what ET is doing

with it. They stick to embargoes and are great about doing bigger


Access Hollywood, anchored by Pat O’Brien, a former CBS sports anchor,

and Nancy O’Dell, a former investigative reporter for a Miami TV

station, has scored a number of scoops recently. The team worked with

PMK publicist Melissa Kates to bag an interview with Calista Flockhart.

Michael J. Fox did only one interview about his decision to quit Spin

City - and that was with Access Hollywood.

Two weeks ago, the team sat down and each came up with five A-list

celebrities they’d like to get on the show. Among them is actress Halle

Berry, who was injured in a controversial car accident. ’Nancy O’Dell is

handling the story very delicately,’ Silverstein says. ’I think when she

is ready to talk, she’ll come to us.’

Silverstein explains that the show’s success has all to do with the


’There is a trust that publicists have with us. The Michael J. Fox

appearance needed handling in a classy, not maudlin way.’

Nancy Haberman, EVP and media director at Rubenstein Associates,

recently pitched a charity event involving Katie Couric. She works

regularly with New York-based producer Jeneine Doucette and explains

that if you’re approaching the show, you need to know who and what you

can deliver.

’We pitched them something on a new colon cancer initiative involving

Katie Couric,’ Haberman says. ’You can’t just ask them to turn up, you

have to offer them something to make it more interesting. If they ask

you, you have to know what you are going to be able to provide.’

Of course, Access Hollywood is a news show and when news breaks you

should be prepared to get dumped, Silverstein says. He always insists

that people are made aware they won’t be on and tries his best to

reschedule people for the following day’s show.

His attitude to exclusives is flexible. ’We don’t demand them. There are

stories out there viewers want to see and we are confident in our

ability to make them compelling. We are straight forward and make no


Access Hollywood is also aware of the tight press restrictions some

movie studios work under, which on occasion forces them to accept

pre-recorded publicity material. ’If Madonna is doing a movie and it is

tight security, you have to make a comprise,’ he says, but b-roll is

usually a no-go.


Access Hollywood

3000 West Alameda Avenue

Burbank, CA 91523

Tel: (818) 526 7000

Fax: (818) 526 7001


Executive producer: Gary Considine

Co-executive producer: Rob Silverstein

Supervising producers: Barry Berk, Clay Smith

Senior segment producers: Mark Bracco (television) Nancy Harrison

(music) Adam Jordan (film) Dave Wong (film)

New York Bureau

10 Rockefeller Plaza

Suite 820

New York, NY 10020

Tel: (212) 332 3140

Fax: (212) 332 3141

Bureau manager: Chris Fahey

Senior segment producers: Jeneine Doucette; Melissa Pervel.

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