Why 'Entertainment Tonight' is 'obsessed' by potential of Facebook video

CBS’s celebrity news series “Entertainment Tonight” gets 5 million viewers on TV every evening. But in an effort to reach a younger demographic, the program has embraced the distributed-content model — which now also means publishing more video to Facebook.

While it has more than 4.2 million Facebook fans, “Entertainment Tonight” is relatively new to publishing video to the social network. It has been testing Facebook live streaming by doing both in-studio celebrity interviews and some field shoots. These early tests have helped “Entertainment Tonight” grow to 11.7 million views on Facebook in February, according to Tubular Labs. (In contrast, it only had 19,000 views last December.) “ET” even did a 360-degree video around the Grammys red carpet.

“I’m obsessed with the opportunity in Facebook Live and 360-degree video,” said JD Crowley, svp and gm of digital media at CBS Television Distribution. “As a video player overall, they are definitely someone who we will continue to work with.”

“Entertainment Tonight” plans to embrace Facebook much in the same way it has adopted other distribution platforms, including its website, YouTube and even portals like AOL: by tailoring content specifically for the platform, manned by people who know how to use it best.

“What if ‘ET’ did not exist as a TV show, what if we were launching it as an entertainment network on just Facebook? What audience is there, what kind of content are they consuming, what are the white spaces we can fill?” said Crowley. “We’re dedicating resources to creating content just for that audience and nurturing that audience.”

Overall, “Entertainment Tonight” employs more than 50 people for its digital content (which includes text and video) and social teams. Within each of those divisions, the show has a dedicated group for each platform it’s distributing to. Combined, they are responsible for pushing out 40 to 50 pieces of video and more than 70 articles per day, according to Crowley. “When we think about a story, there is usually a representative from the TV show, a rep from the Facebook team, a rep from the dot-com team, a rep from the YouTube team — and they’re all thinking about how to tell that story on all of the different platforms,” he said.

This approach has helped “Entertainment Tonight” grow its online video audience. In January, “Entertainment Tonight” content on its website, ETonline.com, was watched by more than 11.4 million desktop viewers in the U.S., according to comScore. That put the site at the top of comScore’s entertainment-news category, ahead of competitors such as TMZ, People and E! Online. The site also reached 37.9 million unique visitors in the U.S. in January, up 134 percent from the same month the previous year. On YouTube, where it has more than 320,000 subscribers, “Entertainment Tonight” is nearing 100 million views per month, per Crowley.

And it’s not just the show’s TV audience, a majority of whom fall into the 25 to 54 age demographic, watching TV clips online. Most “Entertainment Tonight” viewers on YouTube are 18 to 24 years old. Similarly, a majority of the website audience is between 18 and 34, and a majority of the show’s Facebook followers are 18 to 49.

“Because we have these different demo breaks, it made sense to ultimately divvy up the resources we have dedicated to each distribution channel,” said Crowley.

These efforts have also changed how CBS Television Distribution pitches “Entertainment Tonight” to advertisers. Last May, the company merged the show’s digital and TV sales teams with a focus toward pitching the program as a multiplatform media brand, and not just a TV show.

“Clients wanted one person to talk to; they wanted one person representing the brand,” said Scott Trupchak, evp of ad sales for CBS Television Distribution. “It was absolutely the right decision.”

Image via CBS