Giving a Little ‘Extra’ for 25 Years

WHY THIS MATTERS:Extra’s long run and stability is a boon for TV stations who can count on the show’s brand recognition and reliability.

To welcome the onset of its 25th season, Warner Bros.’ entertainment magazine, Extra, brought back former hosts to hang out with Mario Lopez, Tanika Ray and Renee Bargh in Los Angeles and A.J. Calloway in New York.

The result was an on-air party that aired during the season premiere on Monday, Sept. 10, and featured the whole crew, including Mark McGrath, Leeza Gibbons, Libby Weaver, Dayna Devon, Samantha Harris, Jon Kelley, Tracey Edmonds, Charissa Thompson, David Rose, Wendy Walsh, Lauren Sanchez, Brad Goode, Arthel Neville and Dave Nemeth.

Things have changed quite a bit since Extra first premiered on Sept. 5, 1994, with Neville and Nemeth as hosts, and even from 2000, when Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey took over as senior executive producer and brought on Leeza Gibbons as the show’s sole host and executive consulting editor.

“It was like another world,” Gibbons said. “Entertainment journalists were the conduit through which stars reached their fans. From set visits to junkets and in-depth interviews at home, part of celebrities’ images were tied to how they came off in these settings. It was the greatest time to deliver what used to be an all-access pass that wasn’t available any other way.”

With stars now constantly posting to social media, that’s no longer true, but the secret to the show’s success is in how it’s constantly reinventing itself. The show started out as a standard in-studio, two-host show reporting on the Hollywood news of the day. Today, it shoots from Universal Studios Hollywood, with Lopez, Ray and Bargh embedded among the fans.

“My job is so easy because I’m a fan,” Ray said. “I make sure I represent what people want to know.”

Throughout its run, Extra has served as a linchpin for TV stations in key pre-primetime access time slots, leading out of stations’ all-important local newscasts. It currently is averaging a 1.1 live-plus-same-day household rating season to date, according to Nielsen, and a 0.5 among the key demographic of women 25-54.

“The team at Extra has done a lot to stay relevant with audiences and the times,” Valari Staab, president, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, said. “The show moved out of the studio and in front of a real, live audience — a move home audiences enjoyed. Extra also is using social media and digital in its storytelling to help audiences relate to the show. As it continues to evolve, the hosts’ authenticity remains a strong feature. Mario Lopez brings warmth, enthusiasm and excitement as the engaging host of Extra for 10 years.”

Said Lopez: “The best thing about my job is that I get to meet the most fascinating people in the world of entertainment, sports and politics. I learn so much, it’s different every day and it never gets old. And because of Extra, I am now pretty much in every hotel room in America.”

Besides creating digital and social content all day every weekday, Extra also is available in hotel rooms across the country as “Extra at the Movies” plays on the Welcome Channel on in-room TV guides.

“When I started in 2000, there was no internet and no social media,” Gregorisch-Dempsey said. “Our stories at 7 p.m. were brand new and exclusive. Now you get entertainment 24/7, and we program the show completely differently.”

For example, the show’s correspondents and producers shoot many segments just using their iPhones, capturing what’s happening exactly in the moment, and then post those segments across their social media platforms.

Extra has embraced social media, knowing that it’s so important to the audience and to the celebrities. They have figured out how to weave that into the fabric of the show,” said Donna Redier-Linsk, executive vice president and general manager at Warner Bros.’ first-run production unit, Telepictures, which oversees Extra.

“Social media has transformed everything by allowing stars to break their own news and create their own relationships with their fans,” Gibbons said. “They can deliver their own original content, and respond to a challenge or rumor instantly. The way they do that has become much the focus of the reporting.”

To take advantage of that, the show airs its own version of Insta-stories, which Ray and the rest of the team produce, and it can then repurpose those on both their own and the show’s Instagram feeds.

Besides moving the hosts out of the studio, the show also has shifted its focus onto the entire team of correspondents — Mark Wright, Terri Seymour, Michael Corbett, Jerry Penacoli and Adam Glassman — and the celebrities that they cover. It’s also gone on the road with bureaus in New York and Las Vegas and one about to open in Nashville.

“To continue to stay ahead of the curve, the team at Extra has been open to the fact that celebrity and celebrity business doesn’t just happen in Los Angeles and New York,” Redier-Linsk said. “The show has gone to Vegas and is going to other areas of the U.S. where celebrities are traveling and living and making headlines.”

While Extra continues to go to the celebrities, they also willingly come to the show, Gregorisch-Dempsey said: “There aren’t that many shows out there that have this much daily access to celebrities. We go where the nation is. We are always trying to validate the name Extra.”

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.