EP Linda Bell Blue Departing 'Entertainment Tonight' After 19 Years (Exclusive)
Linda Bell Blue, who has been executive producer of top-rated TV entertainment news magazine Entertainment Tonight for 19 years, will exit her current job in September 2014, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
DJ Petroro, who helped launch The Insider and was made an executive producer at E.T. in 2012, is Bell Blue's hand-picked successor.
Blue Bell is in talks for a creative executive role with CBS Television Distribution, in an effort to help grow and extend the E.T. brand. She would continue to work with the E.T. staff in her new role, according to sources, with offices at CBS Radford Studios. Bell Blue's contract for her new role is expected to be finalized within the next few weeks.
Nielsen has rated Entertainment Tonight as the No. 1 TV entertainment newsmagazine for 894 straight weeks. Season-to-date, it has averaged a 3.3 rating nationally, about even with last season. E.T. is up this season in total viewers, averaging 4.7 million per show compared to about 4.6 million last year. The syndicated show's rating in the key demographic of women 25-54 is a 1.7 this season, compared to a 1.6 last season.
Bell Blue, according to sources close to the show, told CBS management nearly a year ago that she was tired of the daily 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, and was seeking new challenges and more personal time. When Petroro signed a new contract this past June, Bell Blue told key staff that 2013-14 would be her final season.
Petroro, who began his career at Fox's WNYW in New York City, worked for NBC's Access Hollywood from 1996 until 2004, when he joined CBS to help launch The Insider. He was promoted to co-executive producer in 2006, and joined Bell Blue as an executive producer at E.T. in 2012.
Next September, Bell Blue, 57, will also end her role as executive producer of OMG! The Insider, only a season after the show was transformed in a deal with Yahoo. It had existed as The Insider since it was launched in 2004 as a companion to Entertainment Tonight.
When Bell Blue was named to The Hollywood Reporter Women In Entertainment Power List in 2012, her citation reported that, "Entertainment Tonight continues to set the standard for infotainment TV. In its 32nd season -- ET marked its 8,000th episode in May -- it has remained the top-rated syndicated program for 86 consecutive sweeps periods thanks to major gets like host Nancy O'Dell's Nov. 1 exclusive sit-down with reunited real-life couple Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson of Twilight."
Along with the daily shows, over the years Bell Blue has executive produced many specials, including Red Carpet Confidential and Celebrity Weddings Unveiled. She also produced the ABC reunion special Entertainment Tonight Presents: Laverne & Shirley Together Again in 2002.
Bell Blue, a native of Springfield, Mo., and graduate of the University of Missouri journalism school, started in local news at KRON-TV before moving on to KPIX-TV in San Francisco, WDIV-TV in Detroit and then KCBS-TV in L.A. from 1982 until 1987. She served as supervising producer of the newsmagazine This Evening and as producer of Hour Magazine, and then was executive producer of Hard Copy for six seasons.
She joined Entertainment Tonight in its 15th of 33 seasons. E.T. is produced and distributed by CBS Television Distribution.
Bell Blue and the show have earned many honors including the Star Award from the American Women in Radio & Television, induction into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and, for the show, Favorite News Magazine from TV Guide.