Final Project: E! Entertainment Television

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The idea of a digital media company is a relatively new concept and social norm. In the early 2000s, legacy media companies dominated the news and entertainment realm and continued to generate massive consumer revenue and followings. As the world moved into the 21st century, this system began to rapidly change. Legacy media companies became less relevant as new media innovations propelled the world into the digital era. In February of 2004, Facebook was launched in the dorm room of a Harvard undergrad named Mark Zuckerberg. In 2006, Twitter was launched and within the next six years, collected nearly 100 million users. In 2006, Buzzfeed was founded in New York City by a team of journalists who set out to revolutionize how people interacted with the Internet. In June of 2007, Apple launched the first iPhone, seamlessly connecting humans to technology and digital media. In September of 2011, people started sending photos of themselves to their friends on an app called Snapchat. These five examples illustrate just a few of the digital milestones of the early 2000s. Despite the rapid rate of digital development, in the moment it may feel like an organic progression of inventions and innovation. However, when future generations look back at the early 2000s, it will be clear that an almost sudden revolution took place, changing the course of human history.

At the forefront of the digital age is E! Entertainment Television, LLC. E! is an American television channel owned by the media conglomerate NBCUniversal. As of February 2015, E!’s audience reached nearly 4,296,000 American households – approximately 81.0% of televisions. E! has flawlessly transitioned from a legacy media company in the 1990s, to a new media power house of the digital age. By examining the past, present, and future of E!, we can develop a greater understanding of how E! contributes to digital disruption and has changed the landscape of pop culture and social media.

PAST: MOVIETIM(E!) 

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In July of 1987, Movietime was founded by Larry Namer and Greg Kinnear, as service that streamed movie trailers, events and awards coverage, and celebrity interviews. In June of 1990, Movietime was bought by the Time Warner Company and renamed E! Entertainment Television. The change was made in effort to expand the channel’s focus to the “celebrity industry complex,” television, music, pop culture and fashion. In a 1990 Los Angeles Times article “E!–the Entertainment Channel Debuts Today : Television: Former MTV exec Lee Masters revamps Movietime“, author Susan King writes, “It’s ‘Entertainment Tonight’ gone berserk: A 24-hour-a-day cable channel featuring interviews with celebrities, movie reviews, entertainment news and behind-the-scene peeks at films and TV. Lee Masters, who was credited for revitalizing MTV, was named president and tasked with transforming Movietime to E!. Masters said in an interview at the time, “This is going to be a lot broader than Movietime…It’s going to have a sense of fun. It will cover anything to do with entertainment.” In the 1990s, there was an influx of celebrity gossip magazines and television programs. When asked if there was still space for a channel like E!, Masters said, “There’s always a kind of appetite for this kind of thing.” Under the guidance of Masters, E! quickly grew and gained a following. Despite the crowded field of celebrity gossip and tabloid style journalism, Masters knew that there was always space for more entertainment and more gossip.

E! in the 1990s: 45% movies and their stars//35% on television and their celebrities//15% on music and its personalities. This infographic illustrates the distribution of content using examples of what would have been of discussion on E!

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45% (Pretty Woman) 35% (Fresh Prince of Bel Air) 15% (2Pac) 5% (other) 

E! seamlessly transitioned into a full-fledged celebrity gossip, pop culture and entertainment destination. Moving from the 1990s into the early 2000s, E! remained exclusively a television channel, promoting its newest feature E! News. E! News debuted in September of 1991 as a weekday program that would feature pop culture stories and gossip about celebrities. E! News was modeled after a traditional morning news show, but geared toward a younger, more permeable and more adaptable audience: young women. Steve Kmetko was host from 1994-2002. In 2006, Ryan Seacrest became co-host and managing editor of the news operation at E! In 2012, Terrence Jenkins and Giuliana Rancic took over as hosts of E! News.

PRESENT: E! POP OF CULTURE

In 2012, E! released the tagline, “E!, POP OF CULTURE” and in recent years has become well known for their roster of original, reality TV programing. The network produces a large amount of documentary style broadcasts; E! True Hollywood Story and E! Investigates were two of the networks most popular shows in the mid 2000s.

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Some of E!’s original programming includes: The Soup, The Fashion Police, The Girls Next Door, Married to Jonas, The Anna Nicole Show and Ice Loves Coco.

However, no show on E! has come close to matching the success and reach of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The first episode aired on October 7th 2007, following the lives of the Kardashian-Jenner Family in Los Angeles, California. The show has spawned three spin-off series and brought the family into the world wide spot light and global fame. The series follows the trials and tribulations of the three eldest sisters, Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe. The Kardashians are now known as the “royal family”of America and since 2007, have created a global brand for themselves, under the guidance of matriarch Kris Jenner. The Kardashian Brand is in part due to the media strategy of both the family members and E! The following infographic illustrates the progression and growth of the Kardashian empire and their rapid assent from reality TV stars, to multi-media moguls.

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E! ONLINE

E! Online is the digital and online branch of the E! network. The website features entertainment news stories and offers streaming of their original series. During red carpet events, such as the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes, the website will live stream the events featuring their E! News correspondents. In July of 2012, EOnline.com was redesigned to accommodate both tablet and mobile platforms. On the About Us page on E! Online it says:

“E! Online is your No. 1 destination for all things pop culture. We’re one of the fastest-growing digital destinations, with more than 39 million multiplatform unique visitors per month in the U.S. We eat, sleep and breathe pop culture, delivering exclusive breaking news and in-depth coverage on celebrities, awards show and movie premiere livestreams, TV scoops and spoilers, fashion trends and tips, and what’s viral now.”

E! Online epitomizes the seamless transition from a legacy media corporation to a new media, digital conglomerate. Unlike similar television networks and legacy news corporations, E! has openly embraced the digital revolution and participated in its growth. Rather than focusing on television alone, E! embraced its stars as social media icons and provides the online and digital platforms for their promotion. The following infographic illustrates the massive and diverse online following of E!

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 E! Online has an unparalleled reach across all digital platforms:
• 38 million multi-platform users (pic: E! Online logo)
• 27 million mobile (smartphone/tablet) users (pic: iPhone)
• 13 million desktop/laptop users (pic: keyboard)
• 65 million cross-platform video views, translating to 1,500 video views per minute. (pic: YouTube logo)
• Over 47 million social fans/followers (pic: Kardashian Sisters)

E! has transformed from a television channel, to a diversified, multi-media corporation. Due to it’s all encompassing brand and media approach – social media, advertising, products, etc.-  the content of E! is constantly accessible to its consumers. I asked Chloe Horowitz, a Psychology student at the University of Michigan, her perspective on E!

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.52.16 PMQ: What do you think about E!’s social media and brand strategy?

A: Well, there are a few things that are important to note. E! is clearly geared toward women, ages 15-30 and they have capitalized on the malleability of the minds of these women. They have created a product, Keeping Up With The Kardashians for example, and created an empire based on the presumption that these women are some how more glamorous and important than the rest of us. Using social media and extremely aggressive branding, E! has been one of the driving forces that has made our society to obsessed with celebrity culture. I don’t find the shows on E! to be particularly entertaining, rather it seems silly and pathetic to chronicle the lives of fake celebrities and glorify their lack of accomplishments. On social media, E! stars have used every tool in the book to garner massive followings. This allows them an amazing global reach and I admire when they use their voices for good. I just wish young girls and some women didn’t become so obsessed with them and imitating their lives. 

Q: How has E! changed how people, particularly young women, interact with reality TV and polarized the market of reality television?

A: I think it has made women more insecure. Girls are constantly trying to live up to the standards of the absurd and unrealistic lives of the Kardashians, which as we all know is crazy!! I think the concept of “reality” TV is particularly problematic. Clearly these shows are manipulated and manufactured and any one who is watching them should be aware of this to some degree. E! has polarized the market of reality television and created a world of consumers who are obsessed with following the fake lives of real people. It is no longer reality television. It creates a plethora of issues, but I think the insecurity issue is the most problematic. 

 

WHAT’S NE!XT

Anyone who monitors pop culture and celebrity entertainment knows that E! is the most formidable and influential brand in the “celebrity” industry. E! is now available throughout Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. E! has exploited the “celebrity industry complex” into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Before E!, the most popular reality shows in America were American Idol and Survivor. Since the airing of the first episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, there has been a shift from actual reality television to glorified reality television. Using the tools of the digital age -Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook- E! has catapulted its celebrities into world wide fame. The transformation of E! illustrates the potential for a legacy media company to embrace the digital age and utilize the tools provided by technology to expands its reach and dominance. E! is a digital media company of the 21st century and exemplifies the power of televised, online, social, and digital media.

Profile on Perez Hilton

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Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. or Perez Hilton, is an American blogger and television personality. After graduating from New York University in 2000, he started his blog PerezHilton.com (formerly pagesixsixsix.com). The blog is a popular online destination for celebrity gossip and news, competing with other sites such as TMZ and realitysteve.com. The blog has become famous for covering celebrity gossip with added captions and doodles mocking the photos of celebrities on the site. PerezHilton.com has received some negative attention in the past for having outed closeted celebrities, such as N’Sync member Lance Bass. PerezHilton.com has walked a fine line between public celebrity coverage and the exploitation of personal information. The content on PerezHilton.com has increased the media coverage of celebrities on all formats. This invasive form of journalism calls into question the morality and sanctity of the content on the site. PerezHilton.com has been an integral and formative figure of the 2000s, contributing to rapid rise in celebrity obsession and 24/7 news coverage.

Perez Hilton started his blog in 2000 because “it seemed easy” and was a simple hobby. Hilton’s tone on celebrity gossip is shameless and bold, and blatantly accusatory and rude. Hilton fearlessly expresses his personal feelings throughout his blog. He is an evident fan certain celebrities, such as LGBTQ community leader Lady Gaga. However, Hilton has expressed vendetta-like and inexplicable aggression toward actresses Vanessa Hugdens and Taylor Momsen. PerezHilton.com has become a vehicle for Hilton to express his personal opinions is a self promoting and audacious manner. In a 2010 interview with Cliché Magazine, Hilton said; “What set my site apart is that prior to PerezHilton.com, most blogs were mainly online journals and diaries, but that never interested me. I wanted to talk about celebrities because they’re far more entertaining.”Before PerezHilton.com and in the early 2000s, blogging was very much a new and unused way of online story telling. Tabloid magazines monopolized the celebrity gossip industry and the internet had yet to take over news production and coverage. When PerezHilton.com was launched in 2001, it was the first and most successful platform for online celebrity gossip. 300x250_I-DARE-YOU-TO-CLICK-ME

Perez Hilton has capitalized on his blog’s success, turning his blog into an actual brand. Perez Hilton is now often featured as a commentator on E! and is a frequent “celebrity” guest on The Fashion Police. PerezHilton.com’s distinct angle on celebrity gossip is entertaining and gripping as the harsh tone of the blog allows ordinary people to see normally glorified celebrities, in a humanistic and truthfully embarrassing way. Perez Hilton epitomizes a “citizen journalist.” Utilizing the tools on the internet and the digital era, as well as shameless self promotion, Perez Hilton has created a market for his online content and himself. Perez Hilton exemplifies the possibilities for citizen journalism and the ability to create a distinct voice in the clustered field of online news coverage and blogging.

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Reality TV Photo Project

The millennial generation’s obsession with reality television is a perplexing topic of conversation. It is a fascination that is so heavily woven into the lives of young women that most often don’t realize the time they devote to following the lives of other people. I set out to capture how young women interact with reality TV and how life stops in order to catch a quick glimpse or update of a reality TV show. The pictures span the course of a week and demonstrate the polarizing qualities of reality TV. Even when they aren’t watching, girls often check the Twitter and Instagram feeds of their favorite reality shows and stars to stay updated as an episode aires. For no explicable reason, the lives of strangers is something that people, often young women, find comforting. Maybe it’s the idea that no matter how bad your life is, one of the Kardashians is going through a breakup or can’t shed those last 10 pounds either. The women in these photos all have a particular favorite show; whether it’s Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC,  Are You The One? of MTV or Botched on E!, they find these show entertaining, interesting, comforting and enjoyable to watch. Descriptions of each picture can be viewed when you view the photos in slideshow format.

Modern Reality

The widespread use of drones has transformed reality as the dichotomy and media frenzy surrounding government surveillance and a citizens’ right to privacy has become one of today’s most pressing issues. A citizen’s right to privacy and national security should not be mutually exclusive ideals, however this has become our reality. The most basic reality television is News, which aims at providing viewers with access to information about current and on-going events that define modern reality. The use of drones for military, surveillance, and entertainment purposes has changed the way in which information is gathered and has transformed modern reality.

A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (or for military purposes, a unmanned combat aerial vehicle). These devices can administer a variety of tasks including aerial photography, capture live events, aerial mapping, security, delivery, virtual tours, as well as execute military operations. The wide variety of functions that drones perform has allowed the technology to span a variety of different markets. For example, Amazon is currently working on projects that use drones as a method for single-day delivery for purchases made on Amazon Prime. Spotify is using the “PartyDrone” capture footage from the world’s most exciting music and culture festivals. Additionally, CNN has plans to utilize drones for news coverage. The use of drones in the news could give viewers access to events in dangerous situations such as natural disasters, war zones or protests. Drones can be used for a variety of entertainment and consumer purposes which exemplifies the expansive functions of drone technology, beyond just military purposes.

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CNN using drones
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Spotify “PartyDrone”
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Amazon Prime Air

Over the past ten years, the use of drones for military operations has increased dramatically. Drones have revolutionized the way in which the United States conducts military operations both nationally and abroad. Military personal are able to conduct covert operations in dangerous zones without putting American lives at risk. This is an exciting prospect but has sad and controversial repercussions. Because drones are unmanned, there is a certain element of “the unknown,” which sometimes forces decisions to be made from locations far away from the drones themselves. Drone strikes against enemy operatives around the globe are reoccurring news stories and characterize the reality of modern warfare, especially the War on Terror.Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 11.33.19 AM

Drones are able to capture massive amounts of information and data and attack small and precise targets. The use of drones is a polarizing and controversial topic as they are not always as precise and efficient as the technology predicts. Some believe that drones do more harm than good, by infringing on privacy rights and allowing the military to conduct operations that sometimes end in failure and massive civilian deaths. Others believe that drones have revolutionized the world for the better as surveillance and security measures have increased tenfold. Whether or not one agrees with these arguments, it is impossible to deny that drones illustrate the modern military and social reality of 2015.

Visual Literacy

tv-genre-wire-post_11-3757Visual literacy and data visualization are by-products of the modern era, the digital age and the rapid consumption of information. Visualization is defined by Shazna Nessa in her article titled, Visual Literacy In An Age Of Data, as “…the act of creating a mental image in one’s mind…the graphical representation of information.” Data visualization is the notion that both numerical and conceptual data can be conveyed to viewers in a way that allows them to visually and interactively interpret the information. Data visualization in journalism combines traditional story telling with the benefits of technology, virtual representation and multimedia platforms. Nessa also notes the importance of speaking to a reader’s visual literacy. If the data is too complex to be visually conveyed to readers or “skewed toward a more specialized audience,” the creator risks losing an audience whose visual literacy is not on par with theirs. Data visualization is inherently impacted by technology growth and data collection and is therefore a product of the digital age. Visual literacy and data visualization are large components of the future of journalism and virtual story telling. However, if visual literacy is not shared between audiences and journalists, then there is potential for an information gap where content is expressed in a way that incomprehensible to viewers.underload-19

The viewership and polarization toward reality television is, like visual literacy, a product of the digital age and a cultural obsession with social media, celebrity and instant content gratification. The examples in this post demonstrate how data visualization can be a useful and effective tool when conveying information, as long as visual literacy remains respective to the audience. These infographics express data on the viewership of reality television over the past decade and exemplify the ability of infographics to quickly convey information to audiences and readers.

This first infographic expresses television trends over the past ten years. At a glance, it is easy to understand and interpret the information and see its maximum popularity in 2009, then steady decline. The second infographic is a visual display of conceptual information about the perception of reality TV. Both graphics demonstrate data visualization and the ability to convey information to viewers in a fast and efficient manner.