It’s “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest’s turn to be judged Monday, when his live daily TV show debuts in syndication across the U.S.
Unlike some of the wannabe stars on the Fox talent show, the one-hour “On Air With Ryan Seacrest” does not fit easily into any immediately definable category.
“It’s not talk, it’s not variety, and it’s not news -- it’s pieces of all of the above,” says Robb Dalton, president of program development at the show’s syndicator, Twentieth Television. “We are creating a hybrid.”
However, Dalton and executive producers David Armour and Adam Freeman have no doubts about what kind of audience they hope to attract to the show, which goes out live from a specially built multimillion-dollar studio at the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex.
With all his “American Idol” exposure, as well as his new gig as the host of radio’s syndicated “America’s Top 40” program, Seacrest should be able to count on drawing an advertiser-friendly young female audience to the Fox-owned stations that are carrying the show -- but Twentieth is much more ambitious than that.
“We are looking to do the kind of show that a 17-year-old girl will watch with her 40-year-old mother,” Dalton said.
To that end, Armour and Freeman, working with Seacrest, who is also executive producing, believe that they must break new ground in syndication with an ambitious mix of genres that casts a wide net in terms of audience appeal.
Seacrest will act as a sort of ringmaster to a host of different types of presentations from musical acts to celebrity interviews to on-location entertainment news reports, reviews, gags and competitions, the producers say. It’s a show, Dalton says, that has “a lot of moving parts.”
Industry analysts say it makes sense for Twentieth to shoot for a broad demographic but “realistically” the audience for Seacrest will be females aged 12-24 and 18-34, suggested Bill Carroll, vp, director of programming at consulting firm Katz Television in New York.
“And that younger 12-24 demographic is a notoriously fickle audience that is difficult to attract and to retain. It’s an audience that’s drawn to shows such as MTV’s ’TRL’ and to a range of other young adult cable programming,” he said.
Thrill of live TV
Carroll said Ricki Lake initially generated big numbers among that target young female demo, adding that Seacrest’s association with “American Idol” should give him added appeal to that same 12-24 audience.
The fact that this is a show that will go out live against a backdrop of Hollywood seen through a big window a la “Today” will be a big factor in presenting something new for the highly competitive afternoon arena, Armour says.
“The appeal will be its spontaneity and unpredictability --we are looking to try to make this an event every day that happens on live TV,” he says.
The company also has provided a studio in the same complex for Seacrest’s “America’s Top 40.” “So a guest can appear on live television and then also do a major radio show in the same visit,” Dalton says. “And that will be a big attraction for many celebrities.”
Although not all stations will air the show live, Dalton says: “For us, it doesn’t make any difference if 20% or 100% of stations carry it live because we produce it as a live show, and there are no second chances. So when we go to the top of the hour, we have 60 minutes to get it right, and there are no second chances -- there’s no saying, ’Let’s repeat that.”’
Some of the major Fox-owned stations taking live feeds are Dallas, Atlantis, Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis.
Armour and Freeman say they plan to bring in viewers by providing a platform for fans to interact directly with their favorite personalities and performers. For instance, Freeman says: “We plan to do a live ’door knock’ during the show from somewhere in the country. This will involve us going to a fan’s home or place of work -- they have no idea we are coming -- and we reveal to them on the show that we have two tickets to fly them that night or the next night to be front and center at a performance by their favorite artist.”
Seacrest also will assign fans to actually cover and report on their favorite artists’ concerts and other entertainment events.
Describing the show as “fan-centric,” Armour said fans will interact live via text messaging with celebrities who are appearing with Seacrest. There will be various other interactive elements to the show, he adds.
For example, Freeman says: “We were doing a (test) show on the day the news broke that Britney Spears got married, and because we were live, we were able to react to it. And as we put our package together, we were able to have viewers vote on whether they liked it, and we could have fans talk about it on the air.”