WBDTD snatches 'TMZ' strip

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LAS VEGAS -- TMZ.com is making its way to the small screen.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution said Monday that it has struck a multiyear deal with all of the Fox-owned television stations to this fall launch "TMZ," based on Telepictures Prods./AOL's entertainment news Web site.

During a news conference on the eve of NATPE's 2007 Conference & Exhibition at the Mandalay Bay Resort, WBDTD president Ken Werner said the half-hour strip has been sold to all Fox-owned stations, including WNYW/WWOR New York, KTTV/KCOP Los Angeles and WFLD/WPWR Chicago. The show is being sold on a cash-plus-barter basis, with WBDTD providing an hourlong weekend edition and double runs as well.

Werner added that the deal consists of multiplatform elements for station partners, including a "TMZ"-branded module that will reside on each station's home page and feature information on "TMZ" stories that are updated round-the-clock. Additionally, the local "TMZ" site will function as a 24/7 "newsfeed" for its affiliates.

Werner said WBDTD executives are developing the strip as a younger-skewing show and aiming to make it more appealing to males than other syndicated entertainment newsmagazines. It will feature fast-paced video segments, investigative news reports, exclusive citizen video and other elements.

"This is the next generation in entertainment newsmagazines," Werner said. "It's a different kind of show with a different kind of focus and different kind of storytelling."

The show is being produced by Warner Bros.-based Telepictures Prods., Harvey Levin Productions Inc. and paraMedia Inc., with TMZ.com managing editor Harvey Levin and paraMedia founder Jim Paratore serving as executive producers.

Telepictures president Hilary Estey McLoughlin pointed out the value in having already-established TMZ as a brand. Since its launch in December 2005, the site takes credit for breaking such stories as Mel Gibson's arrest and anti-Semitic remarks and the breakup of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline.

"TMZ" will have a distinct point of view," Estey McLoughlin said. "It will show celebrities as real people, celebrities on vacation or out at night, and not just promoting their projects."

Paratore added that a host for the show has yet to be determined. Levin will likely contribute on-air but isn't expected to want to sign up for the host's role, he added.

Werner added that the Fox stations deals call for the show to run in "valuable time periods," though he declined to elaborate. A rep for the stations said time periods have yet to be determined.

"What we are buying into is a proven, immensely successful Internet brand," Frank Cicha, senior vp programming at Fox Television Stations, said in a statement. "The unique combination of broadcast and broadband this project brings makes it extremely attractive."

As for WBDTD's celebrity-jury project, which has yet to be confirmed, Werner declined comment on its status. Regarding WBDTD's low-rated freshman talker "The Dr. Keith Ablow Show," Werner would say only that "we'll continue to produce the show for TV stations for the balance of the year and support it the way we do with all of our shows."
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