THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100
In the 17 years Bell Blue has been exec producer of Entertainment Tonight, 2011 has likely seen the most change to the syndicated staple. Nancy O'Dell replaced veteran host Mary Hart, who had been with the show for 29 years; and there have been layoffs and cutbacks after ET's annual budget was reduced from roughly $40 million to $35 million. (The show makes more than $100 million annually in profits.) "The whole company had to take a deep breath and deal with the challenges," says Blue, 55. "But the transition from Mary to Nancy went as smoothly as it possibly could. And there are very few media outlets that haven't had to tighten their belts. We just have to run better and smarter."
Despite all the change, ET's ratings are up 14 percent since last November. And The Insider, which Bell Blue also exec produces, is up 15 percent. ET's viewership is easily double that of competitors Extra and Access Hollywood and this ratings power helps it remain top dog. "The thing with these shows is, they all want to be first with the interview," says a veteran publicist, "but because ET's got the ratings, it tends to get it."
Bell Blue's take on her 30-year-old show's bread and butter is, "America is in favor of Hollywood and it wants to know every last detail on stars."
One friend describes the Bikram yoga fan as "a big ball of energy," which is particularly impressive because she wakes up at 4 a.m. daily with her husband, Comcast executive Steve Blue. She will need the energy for 2012: Despite ET's focus on entertainment, Bell Blue sees the big stories emerging from the presidential election and the interviews that come with it. "The candidates and their families have become celebrities," she says. "They know Entertainment Tonight has a demographic rich with women, and they want their votes."
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