E!--the Entertainment Channel Debuts Today : Television: Former MTV exec Lee Masters revamps Movietime.


It’s “Entertainment Tonight” gone berserk: A 24-hour-a-day cable channel featuring interviews with celebrities, movie reviews, entertainment news and behind-the-scene peeks at films and TV.

It’s E! Entertainment Television, launching today on more than 500 systems with 14 million subscribers nationwide, including 1.3 million in the Los Angeles area (on such systems as United, Comcast, Century, Sammons and American).

And if E! sounds suspiciously like the Movietime Channel, it’s no accident: This is a revamped version of the three-year old basic-cable network that was little more than an electronic press kit for the latest film or TV series.

Home Box Office, one of the channel’s 10 owners, took over management of Movietime last year and decided to give it a badly needed face lift. It recruited Lee Masters, the MTV executive credited for breathing new life into the music network, to be the president, and he engineered the transformation to E!


“This is going to be a lot broader than Movietime,” Masters said in an interview. “It’s going to have a sense of fun. It will cover anything to do with entertainment.”

E! will focus about 45% of its time on movies and their stars, 35% on television and their celebrities and 15% on music and its personalities. The remainder will deal with books, theater, fashion and other forms of entertainment.

Each hour will be divided into 25 or 26 segments, such as “news,” “gossip,” “celebrity of the day,” “health and beauty” and “behind the scenes.” The channel will have six hosts; they will work in pairs in two-hour blocks.

“It’s not going to be repetitive,” Masters said, “but with 24 hours to fill, if you see something at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, it then might be on at 6 a.m. Wednesday.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Paul McCartney and Goldie Hawn are among celebrities who will be seen on E! in coming weeks.

“We have had good response from performers--much better by far than with Movietime,” Masters said. “We try to make the interviews more fun for the actor and the audience.”

Schwarzenegger, for example, is featured in a lighthearted segment called the “Shameless Plug,” in which he has 40 seconds to plug “Total Recall.” Peter Weller of “RoboCop” fame is asked by a high-tech computer to name his favorite vegetable. (It’s lima beans.) Daryl Hannah and Dudley Moore answer questions from their fans.

Despite the glut of entertainment magazines and television programs covering show business, Masters insists that there’s more than enough room for E! “There’s a kind of appetite for this kind of thing,” he said.

HBO and the other partners have supplied a $43-million bankroll for E! “We anticipate the money will carry us through the latter part of 1991,” Masters said. “We hope to be up and running and profitable by then.”