'omg! Insider' Aims to Be 'SportsCenter' of Entertainment

To the folks at CBS Television Distribution and Yahoo, re-launching The Insider as omg!Insider is no LOL-ing matter. Strategically, the plan is to mine Yahoo!’s massive online audience and tap into CTD’s production expertise to create the ideal entertainment magazine for today’s pop-culture fan, one that hones in on the interests and habits of its audience.

The new show—featuring a blend of Yahoo’s omg! pop culture website and CTD’s more traditional magazine show The Insider—will launch on Jan. 7. Former ESPN personality and Entertainment Tonight weekend anchor Thea Andrews will join Kevin Frazier at the anchor desk, with Brooke Anderson moving over to Entertainment Tonight as a correspondent. Comedian and radio host Michael Yo and fashion reporter Mary Kitchen will be part of the new team also, while omg!'s Kristin Aldridge and Theo Von, and Insider's Keltie Colleen and Nina Parker will show up to hype stories they’re working on.

“The whole idea behind [this partnership] was the reach of omg! and the Yahoo home page,” says Joe Ferullo, CTD senior VP, programming and development. “Omg! gets 30 million unique visitors a month, while the Yahoo home page gets 180 million unique visits each month. Both Yahoo! and TheInsider are big brands, but we all feel that together both brands can be even stronger.”

Brad Bessey, omg! Insider’s executive producer along with Linda Bell Blue, spent 15 years at Entertainment Tonight, where he had been coexecutive producer since 2005, until he departed in 2010 to launch CBS’ The Talk. “We are going to add some perspective and a different point of view,” Bessey says. “We’ll give people a closer look inside the headlines. We want to be spontaneous, fun and unpredictable while creating a more authentic relationship with the audience and with the celebrities we cover.”

All parties involved in this effort believe the time is ripe for changing the traditional magazine format: two easy-on-the-eyes anchors seated behind a desk reporting the news of the day for viewers. For most pop culture fans connected to social media and smartphones, headlines cross their transoms all day long, making an evening recap a tad obsolete. What omg! Insider hopes to become is a fun place for viewers to gain some perspective on the stories they’ve heard about throughout the day.

Ferullo compares the idea to ESPN’s SportsCenter, which is a mix of news reporting and fun banter.

“It’s all about being conversational,” he says. “This has been going on for years—it’s not this voice of God telling me in a staccato way what’s going on and what’s important. Viewers want to spend time with someone they have a relationship with [whose] authority comes from the fact that they really know what they’re talking about and that they aren’t just readers.”

While The Insider morphs into a new show, Richard Cusick, Yahoo! VP of entertainment and lifestyles, says the omg! website is getting a reboot of its own.

“We are trying to get away from this traditional view that stories should be held to break on-air,” Cusick says. “We want to leverage the best of the Web to break news 24/7 on omg! and then use TV for what it’s better suited for—deeper discussion of these topics.”

Obviously, social media will be a part of those efforts, with tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype integrated into what the show does on a daily basis, Bessey says.

“I have four things I need to do with viewers,” he explains. “I need to create a relationship with them, give them some real information, create some sort of emotional experience so they laugh or cry or feel something, and they have to come away feeling like they have learned something and are plugged into what’s going on.”

To help accomplish all of that, omg! Insider is getting a new set, in which Frazier and Andrews will be surrounded by omg! Insider’s working reporters and producers. The show will often cut to casual conversations between the show’s hosts and its reporters, talking about the story of the day, and celebrities will often show up to chat. Surrounding the show’s anchors will be screens and electronic news tickers, giving everything a lively feeling.

“People will be walking in, walking out, talking on the phone—it’s a working newsroom,” Bessey says. “The idea is that we are connected with this world, and the world of entertainment is always buzzing.”

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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.