Aiming to leverage Entertainment Tonight‘s brand equity in the streaming era, CBS has launched ET Live, an ad-supported, round-the-clock service complementing the company’s existing news and sports offerings.
With a different set and on-air talent roster from the “mother ship” syndicated show, a mainstay for nearly four decades, the new streaming service is available via Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android and iOS devices. Deals with other distribution partners will soon be announced, CBS said.
Investors already had gotten a teaser for the new ET service over the summer. During their August conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss second-quarter results (the last appearance by former CEO Les Moonves), executives announced an ET-branded service would launch by the fall. While CBS continues to have a strong linear portfolio, it has acknowledged changes in the media landscape of late by pushing direct-to-consumer efforts. Stand-alone OTT services CBS All Access and Showtime, which launched in 2014 and 2015, respectively, have grown steadily. CBS now expects them to reach a combined 8 million U.S. subscribers by 2019, one year ahead of previous forecasts, with 16 million the target by 2022.
The company has not shared as much viewership data about its ad-supported streaming platforms, CBSN (a 2014 launch) and CBS Sports HQ (2016). Last August, it announced plans to roll out CBSN Local across the CBS station footprint, noting the impact of streaming in lowering the average age of viewers. Nearly 80% of CBSN’s viewers, the company said, are between the ages of 18 and 49 with their average age an advertiser-friendly 38. Compared with linear networks, the ad load on ET Live will be light, though executives say it will evolve as the app is downloaded and viewer data becomes available.
The game plan calls for cross-promoting between the streaming service and the daily show. ET Live will be integrated into the dashboard of CBS All Access, along with CBSN and HQ. The flagship half-hour ET program will not air in its entirety on the streaming service, though, given its value to local stations. Most stations air it at 7PM as a bridge between local news and network prime-time fare.
CBS executives told Deadline in interviews that many stories lend themselves to a co-ordinated approach blending the news, sports and entertainment teams that now have distinct streaming homes. A news story such as Demi Lovato’s recent overdose, for example, could receive coverage on CBSN, but featuring ET Live talent.
Beyond breaking news, ET Live will feature programming in the traditional ET wheelhouse, including celebrity interviews, features, behind-the-scenes and red carpet coverage, plus celebrity fashion, beauty and lifestyle trends.
Becky Brooks, Senior VP of Multiplatform Programming for CBS Television Distribution, said content will organically be available from the get-go, given the extra footage that has long been shot but hit the cutting-room floor. A red-carpet interview, for example, can now be surrounded with footage from the trip to the red carpet and the travels of celebrities long past the carpet.
The goal of ET Live, she said, is to bring “original reporting and great storytelling to every defining pop culture and entertainment topic and event.”
Rob Gelick, EVP and GM of CBS Entertainment Digital for CBS Interactive, called ET Live “a natural expansion of our strategy and expertise in this area.” The target of the offering, he added, is “the next generation of entertainment consumers, those that are platform agnostic and expect content to be accessible anytime, anywhere.”
Hosts of ET Live include Lauren Zima, Denny Directo, Cassie DiLaura, Tanner Thomason, Jason Carter and Melicia Johnson. ET hosts Nancy O’Dell, Kevin Frazier, Nischelle Turner and Keltie Knight will regularly appear in segments to promote ET Live programming.