Disney-ABC Goes Wall-to-WallWith 'On the Red Carpet'

On the Red Carpet premiered in March 2010, propelled by the idea that entertainment fans want to be where the action is. The idea worked, and Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution now plans to launch the series nationally this fall. The show started as a locally produced program on KABC Los Angeles; it’s now cleared in more than 90% of the country.

On the Red Carpet is hosted by former Miss USA Rachel Smith and executive produced by Pam Chen out of KABC’s news department. Even though it’s headed into national syndication, it still will be produced locally. The show will air as a weekend half-hour and be sold to stations on an all-barter basis with four minutes of local advertising and three-and-a-half minutes of national advertising in each episode. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday nights on KABC, leading into ABC primetime, and it’s being cleared for access and late-fringe time-slots across the U.S.

“We were shooting for news adjacencies with this show,” says Jed Cohen, executive VP and general sales manager of Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution. “It makes for a good news lead-in or -out.”

The show finds Smith going on-site or on-set to talk to celebrities. While Los Angeles is rife with red-carpet events, the show has also traveled; in September 2010 it covered the Oprah Winfrey Show’s season premiere in Australia, and it stayed a bit closer to home this past January, covering the Palm Springs Film Festival. It has also flown to Nashville to interview Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, stars of ABC’s country-music drama, also named Nashville.

“The whole show is built around the idea of being out and about, rather than just being another entertainment show set in a studio,” says Arnie Kleiner, president and general manager of KABC.

“This is really an upbeat program,” adds Cheryl Fair, KABC’s vice president and news director. “When we do have to deal with topics—such as the Boston Marathon bombing or Annette Funicello’s death—we’ll acknowledge what happened because it impacts the world of Hollywood, but we won’t dwell on it.”

That upbeat atmosphere is appealing to advertisers, celebrities and TV stations, says Kleiner, who’s been running KABC since 1996.

“No one has any problem talking to us because they know we won’t rake them over the coals,” Kleiner says.

Many of Los Angeles’ red-carpet events are philanthropic, and On the Red Carpet covers its share of charity galas. These include events to raise funds for such organizations as Stuart House, which offers legal, mental and medical support to abuse victims and is championed by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner; the Long Beach Celebrity Grand Prix, which raises money for Southern California Children’s Hospitals; and M.E.N.D., or Meeting Each Need With Dignity, an organization dedicated to “breaking the bonds of poverty and providing a pathway to self-reliance” that was highlighted by the Academy Awards this year.

“It’s great because we get a chance to focus on some of these important issues while we talk to celebrities,” Fair says.

Roll Out Began on Web

Like Warner Bros.’ TMZ, On the Red Carpet was launched as a website, ontheredcarpet.com, focusing on the scene around that year’s Academy Awards.

“Our Web guy, David Piechowski [who’s since been promoted to vice president of digital media at the ABC Owned Television Stations], said, ‘Why don’t we keep this going?’” Kleiner recalls. “We started to do that and we got a little bit of traction.

“Then [Piechowski] said, ‘We’d get even more traction if we had a TV show.’ I thought that was a great idea. We went on the air in March 2010 on the Sunday following the Academy Awards.”

After that, On the Red Carpet soon expanded to the seven other ABC-owned TV stations in New York; Chicago; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Houston; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Fresno, Calif. Kleiner also got a call from Jeff Block, general manager of Scripps ABC affiliate KGTV San Diego, who wanted to add the show to his line-up.

“San Diego is very close to Los Angeles, so entertainment and celebrity resonates here, and I needed another weekend access show that had a quality look,” says Block, who currently airs the show on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m.

In fall 2010, Disney-ABC also started airing On the Red Carpet on its digi-net, Live Well. When the show enters station syndication this fall, it will stop airing on Live Well and be exclusive to TV stations.

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Paige Albiniak

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.