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Warner Bros. wants to beef up TMZ

December 8, 2009 |  1:56 pm

Warner Bros. wants to expand TMZ, the tabloid news website and TV show that has become the bane of every celebrity's life for its scathing -- and usually accurate -- reporting on the rich and the restless.

LEVIN TMZ, which was the brainchild of lawyer turned muckraker Harvey Levin, has been run as a partnership between Warner Bros.' Telepictures unit and America Online since it launched in December 2005. Now though, as AOL prepares to spin off from Time Warner, TMZ will become 100% owned and operated by Warner Bros. AOL will continue to feature TMZ on its home page to drive traffic to the site for the next year, but Warner Bros. is also going to start establishing relationships with other portals in an effort to broaden its reach.

Often dismissed as a bunch of kids going through celebrity garbage cans, TMZ gained new prominence when it was first to report that pop star Michael Jackson died. It also has been out front on the Tiger Woods scandal. According to regulatory filings, TMZ had revenues in 2008 of $25.4 million. Warner Bros. wants to grow TMZ's news operation, people close to the operation said. At the same time, though, the company does not plan on investing more in TMZ even though it is now losing its partner.

Instead Warner Bros. wants to get more aggressive and effective in selling advertising across the TV show and the site. TMZ, a person a familiar with the company said, attracts more upscale consumers, and Warner Bros. thinks it can boost ad revenues substantially. TMZ also is increasing its presence on mobile phones, which Warner Bros. thinks it can exploit better now that it is the sole owner. 

One thing that is not planned for now is a TMZ cable channel. We think they're missing an opportunity there. How about combining TMZ with Time Warner's Headline News. A Nancy Grace-Harvey Levin combination would be something to behold. It would also be really scary, but anyway.

-- Joe Flint 

Photo: TMZ's Harvey Levin. Credit: TMZ / Warner Bros.