NBCUniversal’s flagship entertainment magazine Access Hollywood is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year by revisiting many of the biggest moments from the show’s 1996 debut with special in-show segments as well as a podcast.
“Looking back on 25 years of celebrity interviews, set visits and red carpets really shines an incredible spotlight on how Access has been such a constant in the industry,” said Senior Executive Producer Maureen FitzPatrick.
The show returned to its studio on the Universal lot earlier this month after having had to work remotely, like most shows, during Los Angeles’ long shut-down and quarantine phase. While the hosts and producers are largely back in the studio, safety measures such as masks, PPE and social-distancing remain in place and everyone gets tested weekly.
“Following all of the restrictions, it really put a spring in everybody’s step to get back into the studio,” said FitzPatrick, who joined Access Hollywood as a consultant in 2018 and became senior executive producer of the show in 2019.
Part of the show’s silver anniversary celebration is diving into its vast video vaults to find and re-air iconic and prescient interviews, such as the show’s first at-home interviews with some of today’s biggest stars, including Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Matt Damon, Blake Lively and George Clooney. Similarly, the show is looking back at stars when they were just 25 as well as stars’ first interviews with the show.
Throughout the season, the show will travel 25 years back in time to explore what was happening in celebrity news on that day as well as “Fashion Flashbacks”
“What I love about those segments is how they meet the old and the new,” said FitzPatrick. “There’s always a story behind the dress or the outfit and that’s what we’re interested in.”
As part of the 25th anniversary effort, show hosts Scott Evans, Sibley Scoles and Zuri Hall are launching a podcast called “The Vault by Access Hollywood,” that throws open the doors to the show’s archives. The podcast premieres Tuesday with new episodes dropping each week.
Over the past several years, Access Hollywood has expanded from just the half-hour access strip into Access Hollywood Live, now Access Daily, and into All Access, which airs after Access Hollywood on six NBC-owned stations in top markets and dives a little deeper into true-crime and human-interest stories than the other two shows do.
The show also has expanded digitally, especially over the past three years or so. Its digital team -- led by Jenny Depper, executive editor, digital content and strategy for Access Hollywood and NBCUniversal’s The Kelly Clarkson Show -- produces some 30 original digital pieces a day that run across digital platforms and social media.
“It’s all about how you take content to the viewer, how you find those people and bring them back to the broadcast. Our audience on digital is looking for something different that’s formatted differently,” said Depper, who came to Access Hollywood after spending years doing digital content strategy for brands at AOL. “My team is focused on bringing content to people in a quick, immediate way on platforms that they are used to consuming content on.”
The digital team produces several original digital-only franchises, including “Golf Cart Confessions,” which features a host and a celebrity driving around the Universal backlot in a golf cart, having fun conversations. With COVID, the show can’t produce these segments right now, but typically they run in longer 10 to 15-minute segments online, and are cut down to much shorter clips for the shows.
During quarantine, the team has begun producing “Turning Point,” quick conversations with celebrities that air exclusively on Instagram’s IGTV. It also has “Bachelor Brief,” which focuses on ABC’s still-popular -- especially in the digital space -- Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises.
Those efforts have resulted in Access Hollywood’s YouTube channel becoming the second-fastest growing at NBCUniversal, doubling its video views from last year.
“In quarantine, accessonline.com has seen the highest amount of traffic that we’ve seen in the past four years,” said Depper. “We are seeing a big return with the audience consuming digitally and social engagement is at an all-time high.”
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.