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 Kim Kardashian turned to her 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."
Ready for relaunch
The television show recently relaunched 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
"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."
In a run-through of the new show recently 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 Duchess 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 severe morning sickness.
"By the way, there is talk of them finding a place outside of London to get away from prying eyes," said 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."
"Kate Middleton was No. 1, with 69 percent -- 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 percent. So that means Kim was searched more than six times that of Kate."
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 about 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.
"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."
Celebrity newsmagazine shows were ripped from supermarket tabloids more than 30 years ago.
The most successful, CBS's "Entertainment Tonight," debuted in 1981 and only last year replaced its effervescent anchor Mary Hart.
Finding an identity
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 popular host 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 percent of those people say, 'Let's check out the television show,' that's a good transfer."
Los Angeles Times writer Meg James contributed to this article.