New Tabloid TV Wars: Page Six, Daily Mail Join TMZ in Crowded Landscape
"We wouldn't have started down this path if we didn't think we could do something that stood out," says Page Six executive producer Jesse Angelo.
Since TMZ stormed the airwaves in September 2007 with its mix of trashy exuberance, celebrity legal news and paparazzi footage of actors in airport terminals, the tabloid TV space hasn't been quite the same.
But, starting Monday, two well-known newspapers are making the leap to TV to try and disrupt the gossip television space: Page Six TV, produced by the New York Post and Endemol Shine, and Fleet Street brand Daily Mail TV, co-produced by Dr. Phil's production company Stage 29 Productions.
"We wouldn't have started down this path if we didn't think we could do something that stood out, and if we didn't think there was a space in the market for our unique brand of storytelling," said New York Post CEO and publisher Jesse Angelo, who also executive produces the show.
Angelo couldn't resist a little dig at Daily Mail TV. "I've really heard almost no buzz at all about the Daily Mail's show," he said. (Daily Mail TV was announced in 2015 and had been planned to launch last year but waited to get better time slots, according to a spokesman.)
Page Six TV isn't starting from scratch. The show, which is envisioned as a complement and extension of the print and online newspaper column, had a trial run in the summer of 2016. Angelo said the team behind the show went back to the things that worked "and poured gasoline on it."
The show was feted on the rooftop of the Moxy Times Square Hotel on Sept. 13, as the show's host (comedian John Fugelsang) and "insiders" — Bevy Smith (Bravo's Fashion Queens), Elizabeth Wagmeister (Variety) and Carlos Greer (Page Six) — were introduced to an "industry" (rather than celebrity) crowd that munched on passed lamb chops and mini yuzu tarts. Fox News co-president and Fox Television Stations head honcho Jack Abernethy was the highest-ranking company official in attendance.
In an interesting twist of fate, Page Six TV will rely somewhat on the success of TMZ, since it will serve as a lead-in in many major markets, including New York. (Angelo also revealed that the Post is working on two other television concepts. The next concept on deck is episodic and scripted, which he said is a "completely different beast.")
Daily Mail TV is an hourlong afternoon news and entertainment program hosted by ex-pro quarterback and media personality Jesse Palmer, who has been making the rounds — including spots on CBS' The Talk and Rachael Ray's show and more than 30 local affiliates — to promote his new vehicle. Jay McGraw, an executive producer on the show and the son of Dr. Phil McGraw, said, "Everybody's just buzzing about the launch of the show. I think people are as excited as we are."
He also said that Daily Mail TV won't compete in the same category as the Page Six TVs and the TMZs of the world because it will cover a variety of topics, including hard news. It also airs during the afternoon, rather than early evening. "A lot of those shows are really one-note shows in that they, by definition, are only covering celebrity and gossip," said McGraw, who also executive produces The Doctors.
How is TMZ's impresario taking the latest entries in the gossip TV space? Harvey Levin seems diplomatic. "I have a different view of competition than I think most people do," Levin told The Hollywood Reporter. "If you have a successful show on TV and then somebody comes along and they do another show and it's successful, I think it helps both. It creates more interest in the genre."
TMZ does not come close to competing with long-running syndicated entertainment series Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, nor does it hold a candle to daily talkers like Dr. Phil or Live With Kelly and Ryan, but it does draw a dependable daily audience. The recent season averaged more than 2 million daily viewers — putting it in the top third of U.S. syndicated series.
While TMZ doesn't have a new show to launch Monday as Page Six and Daily Mail debut, it has a trick up its sleeve: Onetime White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci will be hosting TMZ on TV and co-hosting TMZ Live with Levin. Asked how the one-day appearance came together, a rep for "The Mooch" replied with one word: "Effortlessly."
Meanwhile, a wild card in the space down the line could be emerging. Mike Walters, a TMZ.com co-founder who recently started his own celebrity news site, The Blast, with backing from producers the Banijay Group, said that television is a natural extension of what he's doing too — though it's very early.
Walters, who was a producer and a regular on TMZ's TV shows, said that millennial audiences demand authenticity from celebrity news shows and don't care as much about gloss. "I want the people who work on those stories to tell me what's going on directly," he said.
Walters said he hopes and expects Page Six TV and Daily Mail TV to succeed, and thinks there's enough room in the space for everyone.
With a New Yorker who loves celebrities in the White House, it goes without saying that TMZ, Page Six TV and Daily Mail TV are well-positioned to cash in on years of experience covering some of the characters in his orbit. The Post's Angelo and TMZ's Levin said that covering politics is nothing new for their outlets, and there's been no need or effort to pivot editorially in that direction.
"It's not about leading the show with what Trump did today," Angelo said. "But for us to veer into those areas is very natural."