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SMALL SCREEN GETS SMALLER: Two stories broke yesterday that give you some idea of where network TV is going – where TV has to go – to remain relevant in that eerily familiar, yet discomfortingly wrong world that is the near future. First of all, CBS announced that it will continue its experiment with making new shows available online before their debut in the fall TV season, according to a story in Broadcasting & Cable magazine.
The network’s research chief, David Poltrack, said it would "more aggressively" pursue the strategy, with more promotion for the online premieres and additional exclusive web content to help draw more viewers to the network website. Poltrack emphasized the network’s belief that online availability of a show doesn’t diminish its potential TV audience.
"You could argue that any number of them would have watched the show anyway, but maybe it would be three or four episodes in with all the clutter in the fall," he said. "Partly because so many shows these days are serialized, it is more important than ever to get them in there early."
Armed with a supporting statistic – they claim that 53 per cent of the viewers who watched new shows online are still viewers – the network seems to be alone among the big four willing to make at least tentative steps to turn their website into a content portal offering its programming independent of its broadcast schedule. It’s only a small step, however, and anyone can steal CBS’ lead – provided they have the foresight.
The second item was the announcement of a new Fox show that will carry the brand of TMZ.com, AOL’s gossip and entertainment news website. Launched just over a year ago, TMZ.com has rocketed to the top of its field, thanks to breaking stories like Mel Gibson’s drunken tirade at a police officer, Michael Richards’ comedy club meltdown, and the breakup of Britney Spears’ marriage, mostly shot by what the Lost Remote TV news website calls "a small army of young videographers."
If by "videographer" you mean a passerby with a cell phone camera, then you have some idea of how TMZ accomplished its lightning rise. The new show – to be simply called TMZ – will go daily this fall, according to the press release. "In today’s television landscape, there is big opportunity for a younger, more gender-balanced entertainment magazine with a distinct voice and point of view," said Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
No, I haven’t a clue what that’s supposed to mean, but I can tell you to expect a lot more grainy, amateur footage showing up on entertainment news shows, as anyone who gets within a dozen feet of the next celebrity meltdown realizes they can make a few bucks and bask in the toxic celebrity afterglow for a few minutes.