Just ask any twenty-something: TMZ and MySpace are two great addictions that go great together.
TMZ's MySpace TV channel looks like an instant hit—with scarcely any publicity, the channel last week already was attracting nearly 40,000 plays a day. By comparison, MySpace's most popular channel—Roommates,
based on MySpace's original series—receives nearly 54,000 plays a day. Quarterlife, a Web-based series that just began a run on NBC, gets some 20,000 views a day.
Creating a TMZ channel on MySpace TV “just seemed like a natural for both of us,” says Jim Paratore, one of TMZ's executive producers. “We thought our material would play well in this environment.”
Indeed it does. Targeted precisely at MySpace's youth demographic, TMZ offers up clips of celebrities behaving badly, exiting plastic surgery clinics with ice packs on their faces, getting stopped by the cops, and punching paparazzi—just the sort of thing people love to forward to each other, chat about and maybe even mash up on their own. With 68.6 million unique visitors in January, up 12% from last year at this time according to comScore Media Metrix, MySpace has plenty of marketing power.
And TMZ's no neophyte when it comes to the Web. Since it launched in late 2005, TMZ.com has been growing exponentially. In January 2008, the site attracted 206 million page views and 10.9 million monthly unique visitors. Year to year, the site's page views are up 227%, while its unique visitors are up 77%.
The channel is entirely advertising-supported, and both Warner Bros. and News Corp.-owned MySpace will share in the revenue.
Paratore and TMZ co-executive producer Harvey Levin expect the site's deal with MySpace to expand TMZ's brand, not steal from the traffic the site and the show already have. “That's a huge fallacy that people have with the Internet,” says Levin. “But you can't be afraid of letting people go beyond your little world. The notion of TV is that you have to hold your audience in one place, but on the Web you push people out and then they push you back.”
“It's the same reason you can see all of ABC's shows on ABC.com but people watch the shows on TV,” says Paratore. “It's not a zero-sum game anymore. It's about reaching people at their convenience and giving them as many options as possible to come in to contact with your brand.”
As a result, expect TMZ to cut more online distribution deals in the near future. Warner Bros. is considering deals with sites such as YouTube and Facebook, but it plans to go about its deal-making carefully.
“It's a process you want to manage,” says Brett Bouttier, senior VP of digital at Warner Bros. Television Group. “Our content is top-notch and our shows are brands. There's an environment around our brands and a community that develops around them. If you distribute indiscriminately, you lose the value of that brand.”
According to terms of the deal, MySpace is getting two exclusive clips each day from TMZ, after they run on the TV show. The remaining clips are distributed more widely across the Internet. Bouttier expects there to be “a lot of tie-ins for the stations on MySpace. Obviously our broadcast partner is Fox, and clearly there's already a MySpace connection there, which is nice.”
While TMZ.com's online growth is exceptional, TMZ's performance on TV has been steadily improving since its September premiere, particularly among young demographics. Last week, the show ranked first among all syndicated entertainment programs among women 18-34 with a 1.8 rating, up 20% from the prior week; adults 18-34 with a 1.5; and men 18-34 with a 1.2. The show tied for first with CBS' Entertainment Tonight among men 18-49.
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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.