E! Trails MTV into Voyeur TV

6/02/2002 8:00 PM Eastern

Former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith will join the quirky Osbourne family in the emerging voyeur-TV genre.

Following in the footsteps of MTV: Music Television's The Osbournes, E! Entertainment Television last week announced it would track Smith's life as part of a new half-hour series set to launch in August.

Meanwhile, after weeks of speculation, MTV confirmed that its reality sensation will return for a second season, starting sometime next fall. The network has ordered 20 more episodes of the highest-rated series in its history, which centers on the real-life drama of heavy-metal legend Ozzy Osbourne and his family.

But the deal didn't come easy for the network. MTV will pay Ozzy and his family $5 million for domestic rights to the series' second season, a figure that is expected to grow with international and other exhibitions, according to sources close to the situation.

Published reports also said the Osbourne family has retained syndication rights to all past and future episodes, as well as other distribution formats such as home video and DVD sales.

For MTV, it retains arguably the most popular original programming franchise in the network's 22-year history. The second season will follow Ozzy, his wife Sharon and two of their three children, Jack and Kelly — as well as their menagerie of pets, assistants, roadies, security guards and neighbors — where life takes them.


Along with 20 more episodes, MTV executives said it would look to develop specials, including a potential live telecast of the family. The network will also make stops at Ozzfest, the heavy-metal music tour featuring the former Black Sabbath front man, as well as a special with Ozzy, Sharon and a special dinner with the family.

MTV also plans to offer taggable spots promoting local sponsorship of the series. MTV vice president of affiliate ad sales Jason Malamud said affiliates have been clamoring for such spots, which will also be available in a Spanish-language version.

"We couldn't be happier to have the entire Osbourne family back for more episodes," said MTV and MTV2 president Van Toffler in a statement.

MTV is hoping the second season lives up to the ratings performance of its inaugural run.

During the 10-episode first season, The Osbournes
pulled a 5.3 rating among MTV's core 12-through-34 demographic, translating into an average of 5.6 million viewers per installment.

On a household basis, The Osbournes
— which ran March 5 through May 7 — averaged a 4.4 rating.

But not everyone is convinced that MTV can recapture the magic of The Osbournes'
first season. Newsday TV critic Diane Werts said the cult-like status The Osbournes
built during its first few weeks on the air will disappear now that it's become a highly visible, more mainstream property.

Also, the show's success will make it difficult for the Osbournes to recapture the show's unique appeal, borne from the family's relative obscurity to viewers.

"The whole charm of The Osbournes
was that they were being themselves and it was something that we hadn't seen before. Now that they know how people react to them and their actions, it'll be difficult to repeat what was done during the first 10 episodes," Werts said.


For its part, E! Entertainment will try to capture some of MTV's Osbournes'
success with its show following the buxom Smith, who is still fighting to keep the almost $90 million she received as the widow of the late wheelchair-bound octogenarian billionaire J. Howard Marshall.

The Anna Nicole Smith Show
will turn the cameras on her life and interaction with friends and family, including her 16-year-old son, Daniel, her assistant and her attorney, network executives said.

E! is expected to produce six to 13 episodes of the series. E! executive vice president of original programming Mark Sonnenberg said the idea for the show was developed after Smith's profile on E! True Hollywood Story
became one of the biography series' most popular episodes.

"I think there are a lot of people interested in Anna's private life as well as her family life," he said. "It's all in the storytelling."

Jim Forkan contributed to the story.

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