Entertainment A-List

Entertainment A-List No. 2: Ryan Seacrest

Ubiquitous Entertainment Machine Uses His Unique Brand to Boost Other Brands, From Bing to Reebok to P&G

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Ryan Seacrest
Ryan Seacrest Credit: Illustration: Dieter Braun
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Ryan Seacrest has spent his entire career trying to understand advertisers' needs, from his morning job as host of Premiere Radio Networks' "On Air With Ryan Seacrest" to his afternoon gig as co-host and managing editor of "E! News Daily" to his nine-years-and-counting stint as host of Fox juggernaut "American Idol." But it all started during his days as a 16-year-old intern for Atlanta radio station WSTR.

"Part of my job was pulling commercials and making sure those aired at the right time," Mr. Seacrest told Ad Age between rehearsals for a recent "Idol" taping. "It gave me a background and respect for what advertising meant to the success of media. "

Mr. Seacrest's dual ability to understand marketers and what's newsworthy in pop culture has made him the most ubiquitous presence in entertainment -- not to mention one of the highest-paid. He reupped his contract with Premiere Radio Networks for a reported $20 million a year, even more lucrative than the $45 million three-year deal he signed to remain host of "Idol" in 2009. His company, Ryan Seacrest Productions, has spearheaded the "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" franchise on E!, producing five seasons of the flagship and three spin-offs. Another E! reality series, "The Dance Scene," starring Lady Gaga creative director Laurie Ann Gibson, had a strong debut in April, while ABC docu-series "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" is wrapping its second season.

Wearing so many hats has become Mr. Seacrest's greatest advantage when pitching networks, because of his creative filter as a producer and his cross-promotional abilities as a multiplatform host. "He has the opportunity to ensure his shows' success in a way that few other producers can," said Suzanne Kolb, E!'s president-marketing news and online.

He's also found ways to integrate brands like Reebok EasyTone into red-carpet interviews with celebrities such as Sofia Vergara, or offer up on-air plugs and unpaid tweets to longtime partners like Microsoft's Bing, Coca-Cola and Scope and Crest from time to time.

Look for Mr. Seacrest to take an even more visible role within the recently merged Comcast-NBC Universal. He has expressed an interest in making appearances on NBC daytime juggernaut "The Today Show" and already makes the occasional plug for an exclusive NBC News interview during his E! News appearances. In the meantime, Ryan Seacrest Productions is also in the midst of developing its first scripted series as well as a documentary project for actor Tobey Maguire. He may also be pitching his new bosses on his own cable network; Mr. Seacrest said the long-rumored network is "still in the process."

But for now, he's finishing out the 10th season of "Idol," which has rebounded from several years of ratings slumps to maintain its status as the most-watched show in America.

And after all those exhaustive achievements, is there anything else on Mr. Seacrest's to-do list? "I'd like to hit a beach one of these days," he said, moments before stepping back into the "Idol" studio. "That would be nice."