'The Insider' joins forces with YahooOmg

The TV newsmagazine "The Insider" was created nearly a decade ago on the premise that viewers couldn't get enough behind-the-scenes looks at television and film stars.

That's still true, but these days, celebrity watchers don't need to turn on the TV to get their fix. Fans are awash in Hollywood gossip thanks to social media and the Internet. And in a connected world where reality star Kim Kardashian turned to her own blog to share news of her pregnancy, pop culture no longer waits for an evening TV time slot. So, "The Insider" is turning itself inside out, adopting a new look and approach, in hopes of becoming a more relevant voice in the conversation.

"How do we create a relationship with the audience that is truly part of their social network? That's a puzzle we solve for ourselves every single day," said executive producer Brad Bessey. "We want to be more conversational and not take ourselves so seriously."


FOR THE RECORD:
Show’s name: The headline on an earlier online version of this article incorrectly gave the name of the show “omg!Insider” as “omg!Inside.”


Beginning Monday, the television show relaunches in partnership with the Internet's leading entertainment news destination, YahooOmg. Now called "omg!Insider," the new Web/TV collaboration will take advantage of the digital media giant's broad online reach to break stories and offer a lighthearted, personality-driven discussion of the day's hottest topics on TV.

The CBS syndicated show seeks to find a middle ground between the suit-and-tie seriousness of "Entertainment Tonight" and the over-the-cubicle banter informality of TMZ. Its anchors and correspondents adopt a more playful tone as they share their opinions about the day's news with viewers who already know the day's pop culture developments. "We're putting on a show where we assume, like ESPN 'SportsCenter,' that you know scores and you know the standings," said Joe Ferullo, senior vice president of programming and development for CBS Television Distribution. "We're going to talk about what it means."

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In a run-through of the new show late last week on the CBS lot in Studio City, anchors Kevin Frazier and Thea Andrews sat at a desk positioned at the center of the "omg!Insider" newsroom, ringed by television and Web reporters working at their computers in the background. "We're doing a show in the middle of celebrity news and information, which is always swirling around us," said Bessey. "We put a set in the middle of the newsroom [to illustrate] we're stopping now to do the show with you."

Frazier, a former "Entertainment Tonight" anchor who has hosted "The Insider" since 2011, stares into the camera and playfully proclaims 2013 "the year of procreation," with Kardashian, actress Jessica Simpson and the of Cambridge (the former Kate Middleton) all announcing pregnancies in recent weeks. Andrews, recently a weekend host for "Entertainment Tonight," marvels at how Middleton looks "flawless" as she emerged from King Edward VII Hospital in London, where she had been treated for morning sickness.

"By the way, there is talk of them finding a place outside of London to get away from prying eyes," confided Frazier, who noted that news of the impending royal birth became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

Kristen Aldridge, host of Yahoo's celebrity Web show, "omg! Now," joined the program's hosts to pronounce — in Frazier's words — "who's winning the battle of the baby bump online."

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"Kate Middleton was No. 1, with 69% — but get this," Aldridge said of a recent Yahoo poll. "Right after Kim announced her pregnancy, searches on Yahoo were off the charts. They spiked over 100,000%. So that means Kim was searched more than six times that of Kate."

Comedian Michael Yo, who appeared on the E program "Chelsea Lately" and on "The Yo Show" on Yahoo, joined Frazier and Andrews for a segment titled "What Were They Thinking?" Yo offered a lineup of fashion faux pas that included designer Marc Jacobs' sheer black lace dress worn at a 2012 Met Gala — with white Brooks Brothers boxers underneath.

"This man is a visionary designer," Yo said. "The problem is: He must have double-vision."

"Say what you will about this dress," Andrews retorted. "It did sell out at Barneys."

This blend of insider knowledge and social-media references appears calculated to appeal to a younger generation of viewers, who remain connected throughout the day via Facebook and Twitter. That's a group "omg!Insider" needs: The median age of "The Insider's" viewers this season is nearly 56, well outside the 18-to-49 demographic advertisers most hope to reach.

But the partnership between CBS Television Distribution and Yahoo goes beyond tone — and attempts to build on each media platform's strengths in hopes of making "omg!Insider" a daily habit. The editorial teams will meet each day around 5 a.m. to discuss what's trending and talk about coverage strategies, and remain in communication throughout the day, even after the TV show has concluded its morning taping and has been distributed to local stations.

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"We're incorporating things that we've learned from the Web —– the humor, the 24/7 news coverage — and combining that with rich information and video [from television] to create something different," said Rich Cusick, Yahoo vice president of entertainment and lifestyles. "What it really tries to be is the first true 24/7 online and on-air entertainment coverage."

When a story breaks, the TV show's team will take advantage of the immediacy of the Internet to break news to an audience of about 27 million users who come to YahooOmg, and the even larger audience (171 million) who check out Yahoo's home page, according to online measurement firm ComScore. The TV footage will triple the amount of video it offers on the site. Yahoo, meanwhile, doubled its Omg staff to produce more timely coverage, both of traditional Hollywood stories and topics percolating in the zeitgeist — equal parts Tom Cruise and Angry Cat.

Celebrity newsmagazine shows were ripped from supermarket tabloids more than 30 years ago. The most successful, CBS' "Entertainment Tonight," debuted in 1981 and only last year replaced its effervescent anchor Mary Hart. In its peak years, the show was one of the most successful in Paramount Television's stable, producing annual profit of $100 million. Competitors included "Access Hollywood," owned by NBCUniversal, and "Extra," owned by Warner Bros. In 2004, CBS introduced "The Insider" with longer and more in-depth segments.

But attention spans have gotten shorter, and the proliferation of shows has made it difficult for viewers to distinguish one entertainment newsmagazine from the next. That explains TMZ, which started as a celebrity gossip website and expanded into a fast-paced syndicated show. "TV is constantly trying to top itself," said television historian and former network executive Tim Brooks. "So, 'Entertainment Tonight' was kind of mocked in its day. But it's nothing compared to those that came along later. They had to be bigger and more outrageous."

"The Insider" has struggled for an identity and has undergone various format changes over the years. The most recent blow came when its popular Lara Spencer left in spring 2011 to become lifestyle anchor for ABC News' "Good Morning America." The show now draws about a third of the audience of top-rated sibling "Entertainment Tonight."

It remains an open question whether reaching Yahoo's massive online audience will spur TV viewers to tune in.

"The jury is still out as to whether you can push from TV to the Web and vice versa," said Ferullo, noting that only TMZ creator and host Harvey Levin has done it successfully. "I think the advantage with Yahoo is its mass.... Even if 10% of those people say, 'Let's check out the television show,' that's a good transfer."

dawn.chmielewski@latimes.com

Staff writer Meg James contributed to this article.

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