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'TMZ' Stays in the News

No entertainment news magazine has owned the story of the untimely death of Donda West—mother of celebrated rapper Kanye West—quite like Warner Bros.' TMZ.

The show's coverage of the unfolding story— in which TMZ discovered that West's surgeon, Dr. Jan Adams,

has a sketchy past—has been picked up by national and international news outlets, including the Associated Press, CNN, and People Magazine.

Adams, a famous plastic surgeon, has appeared all over TV, from CBS' Oprah Winfrey Show to being one of the four panelists on NBC Universal's The Other Half. On Nov. 10, West died of complications from plastic surgery performed by Adams. That's where TMZ came in.

“We had no idea about this guy's criminal records, but in literally three hours on Monday [Nov. 12] we uncovered three DUIs, six medical malpractice lawsuits and that he wasn't board certified,” says Jim Paratore, TMZ executive producer. “It became like a thread that we continued to pull.”

The Jan Adams story is right up the rookie magazine's alley, which first came to fame as a Website, In the two years that the Website existed, it first revealed Mel Gibson's drunk-driving arrest, Michael Richard's racist rant on stage at a comedy club and magician David Copperfield's sex addiction.

Two months into the TV show's run, it has delivered on promises it made to TV stations: TMZ is syndication's highest-rated magazine among men aged 18-to-34, averaging a 0.8 live-plus-same-day rating in the demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Season to date, that's nearly half its 1.8 average live-plus-same-day household rating. Its closest competitor in the demo is CBS' Entertainment Tonight, which averages a 0.7 in the demo and a much larger 4.7 among households.

Among women 18-34 and women 18-49, TMZ averages a 1.1 live-plus-same-day rating season-to-date. The only other entertainment magazine that scores higher among young women is again ET, averaging a 1.7 among women 18-34. NBC Universal's Access Hollywood, which averages a 2.3 in households for fourth place overall, ties TMZ for second place in the demo.Things even out with older audiences. TMZ places fifth among women 18-49. ET leads again with a 2.5 in that demo that is most important to advertisers.

“I think TMZ is different, fun and irreverent,” says Harvey Levin, TMZ's creator and executive producer. “There's a variety in this show and elements that appeal to men particularly. We aren't producing for men or women; we are producing an entertaining show with some breadth to it.”

While TMZ's demo story is strong, it's struggling a bit compared to its lead-in and year-ago time period average, which in many markets is Twentieth's now-cancelled Geraldo at Large. On average, TMZ is down 22% compared to lead-in and 18% compared to year-ago time periods, according to weighted metered-market averages. Out of the top-10, New York City is the only one where the show isn't flat or down. In the nation's top market, in fact, TMZ builds on its lead-in by 36%, although it's down 17% versus last year. Compared to last year, the show is flat or down in all top-10 markets.

That said, stations seem happy with TMZ, particularly its online element, which links site visitors to TMZ stories without taking them off the station's site. Stations can sell pre-roll advertising for TMZ clips and use the branded module to help build their sites.

TMZ has been the most comprehensive launch of any syndicated program I've seen in a long time,” says Andrew Stewart, vice president and general manager of Cascade Broadcasting's KWBA Tucson, a CW affiliate. “The response from our viewers has been pretty terrific.”

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.