Thursday, December 27, 2007

‘TMZ’ on TV Finds Its Footing

Harvey Levin and Jim ParatoreJim Paratore and Harvey Levin, shown in September, are the executive producers of “TMZ.”

By Brian Stelter

The three-month-old television version of “TMZ,” which is based on the popular Web site about the foibles of Britney, J. Lo and the like, continues to rank as the top-rated new show in syndication.

Harvey Levin, the managing editor of and the host of the series, said he has been thrilled with the popularity of the celebrity gossip show.

“The Web site was such a breakout that a lot of people were scoffing at the notion that we would, as they put it, ‘revert back to TV,’” Mr. Levin said in an interview this week. “I think people were almost writing it off as something that would fail, something that everyone else was doing on TV, and that it wouldn’t have the freshness of the Web site ­ and I think it does.”

The “TMZ” staff holds a 6:30 a.m. P.T. meeting to plot the day’s coverage. The program is produced at 1 p.m.; a few affiliates broadcast it live and most others show it later in the day.

The program has drawn an average rating of 2.0 in recent weeks, or roughly 2.2 million viewers, placing it well behind the established entertainment news brands (“Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood”) but ahead of the other recent additions to the syndication market (“The Steve Wilkos Show,” “Crosswords”).

Mr. Levin said that “TMZ” was attracting a younger audience than the other entertainment programs, perhaps bringing new viewers into the genre. In October, The New York Times noted that “people age 50 or older account for just 39 percent of its viewers, which also include a higher percentage of men than other entertainment shows.”

Bill Carroll, who analyzes syndication ratings as the vice president and director of programming for Katz Television Group, recently told Media Life Magazine that the series has already found its voice.

“It’s very distinctive and it has the sensibilities to run on stations that usually run more niche programming, as opposed to traditional news,” Mr. Caroll said. “It has an attitude, and I think most of the magazines out that are pure entertainment are more focused on things like movie openings and on-the-set at a TV show, whereas ‘TMZ’ is covering the water cooler topics like the Web site does.”