American Media readies its pitch for 'Star' TV show

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American Media is eager to make a TV star out of its celebrity weekly The Star.

"It would work out so perfectly for us," David Pecker, chairman-CEO of American Media said. "That's exactly what we'd like to do. We have so much content, hundreds of reporters, thousands of stories that come in every day. And there's really only a small amount that we can actually put in the magazine."

Bonnie Fuller, exec VP-chief editorial director at American Media, who is now overseeing a dramatic and expensive upgrade of The Star, said a TV show pitch was in the works.

"The sales season is coming up in terms of pitching television and we are actively pursuing it," said John M. Hughes, senior VP-special projects and business affairs at American Media. "The Star in particular presents a unique opportunity. There's a great buzz around this title. Will there be Star television in the future? It would be hard for there not to be."

leveraging the brands

American Media has a subsidiary called AMI Broadcast created to develop a cable network leveraging several America Media brands including The National Enquirer, but Mr. Hughes said the company is now talking to networks about a broadcast program.

Mr. Pecker wants to take on shows such as "Entertainment Tonight," Telepicture's "Extra" and NBC Enterprise's "Access Hollywood." He also hopes a redesigned version of The Star will storm the rapidly crowding space occupied by Time Inc.'s People, Wenner Media's Us Weekly and Bauer Publishing's In Touch.

"I've never done anything on the broadcast side. I'd love to have a partner who could help us produce it, and then to have a distribution network," Mr. Pecker said.

Ms. Fuller last week attended a press party for Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network with The Star's new celebrity gossip columnist, Victoria Gotti. A spokeswoman at the network said Ms. Fuller and Ms. Gotti were invited as members of the press, not as programming partners. Ms. Fuller carried a mock-up copy of a new and improved issue of The Star that will hit newsstands in January.

ABC Family, the cable sibling of ABC, meanwhile has developed a series of quarterly Hollywood celebrity news specials with Wenner Communications' Us Weekly, the title Ms. Fuller turned into a newsstand powerhouse before leaving to join American Media in July. The cable network's executives suggested the Us Weekly show, which aired one episode in November, could rival Paramount Domestic Television's "Entertainment Tonight." While at Us Weekly, Ms. Fuller gave the title a dramatic makeover. At the time, Ms. Fuller was also said to be talking to producers about a TV show based on the Wenner Media magazine.

Mr. Hughes expects to close a TV deal by the end of 2004. "We are expectant and hopeful that not only will we have something to announce, but we will have a `Fuller' and developed strategy."

Mr. Hughes said several companies have "bit" at the concept, but he wouldn't identify them. He said there also was interest in a show associated with American Media's Men's Fitness. He said American Media produced a pilot for "an `Enquirer uncensored' type show" that he hopes to take to the NATPE conference in Las Vegas in January.

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