Fox Corp. aims to rev up the tempo of its digital news, sports and lifestyle offerings now that the company has completed its acquisition of TMZ from WarnerMedia at a price tag estimated at around $50 million.
Fox has acquired all of the company behind the daily syndicated TV shows “TMZ” and “TMZ Live,” which have aired on Fox’s O&O stations since they debuted in 2007 and 2011, respectively. The TMZ production banner was founded in 2005 by Harvey Levin, the former KCBS-TV Los Angeles correspondent, and the late Telepictures executive Jim Paratore as a division of Warner Bros.’ Telepictures production unit.
Levin will continue to run the company and serve as frontman for the TV shows. In the new configuration, he will report on day-to-day matters to Rob Wade, Fox Entertainment’s president of alternative and specials, and the TMZ entity itself will be added to the portfolio of Fox Entertainment chief Charlie Collier. Fox’s syndication arm, Fox First Run, will take over sales and distribution of the syndicated programs from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
The deal includes all of TMZ’s existing assets including the TMZ Sports digital site and its TooFab celebrity, culture and lifestyle unit that also houses TMZ.com. That website regularly generates huge traffic, particularly with its specialty of video clips of celebrities behaving badly.
Fox Television Stations president Jack Abernethy will also be involved in steering TMZ to become a content engine for the company’s networks, digital platforms and TV stations.
“The unique and powerful brand Harvey has created in TMZ has forever changed the entertainment industry and we’re excited to welcome them to Fox,” said Lachlan Murdoch, chairman-CEO of Fox Corp. “‘TMZ’ has been an impactful program for our Fox television stations and broadcast partners for many years and I know Jack Abernethy and Charlie Collier will find creative ways to utilize and expand this content in effective and compelling ways for our audiences.”
The TMZ sale comes as WarnerMedia parent AT&T has been on a campaign to sell off non-core assets to pare down its $150 billion-plus debt load. From the get-go TMZ had always been an uneasy fit within the former Time Warner empire because so much of its business involved exposés of the Hollywood stars employed by Warner Bros. and HBO for high-gloss projects.
Nonetheless, Warner Bros. Television Group chairman Channing Dungey offered a farewell salute to Levin and his team as the split became final.
“Harvey Levin created a groundbreaking destination for entertainment news, and for the past 15-plus years TMZ has celebrated great success,” Dungey said. “TMZ will now be more closely aligned with the distributor of the popular content they create, and WarnerMedia wishes Harvey and everyone on the team the best as they venture into a new partnership with the talented team at Fox.”
Given the close ties between TMZ and Fox, insiders expressed optimism that the transition would be pretty smooth.
“We couldn’t be more charged,” Levin said. “Fox Entertainment is opening up a world of opportunities for TMZ to grow our current platforms and expand in every which way.”
Variety's Cynthia Littleton contributed to this post.