One day, when your 5-year-old comes marching into the kitchen, the sleeves of one of your French-cuff shirts dangling past his wrists, and says, "Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a content provider," you'll have Ryan Seacrest to blame. Or to thank, depending on how much financial support you're hoping to get from your offspring in your dotage.
Since 2002, when Seacrest, then an afternoon-drive DJ at Star 98.7-FM in Los Angeles, began hosting Fox's epically successful American Idol, he has amassed a collection of contracts, hosting engagements, and promotional deals that makes Donald Trump's plate-spinning seem prosaic. Never mind Idol, whose 2008 ratings are the highest on TVagainor ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve, an annual cash cow that Seacrest signed a long-term agreement to executive produce and cohost with his 20th-century analogue, Dick Clark. The 33-year-old entertainment mogul's 5-to-10-a.m. weekday radio program at 102.7 KIIS-FM, On Air With Ryan Seacrestan aural latte that's heavier on celebrity interviews and caller-Ryan repartee than it is on musicis the most listened-to morning radio program in Los Angeles. Every Sunday, more than three million people (tuned to 500 stations worldwide) hear Seacrest's caramel-coated voice count down the American Top 40. He's also halfway into a three-year, $21 million deal with the E! network; and Ryan Seacrest Productions (RSP), is housed at the E! headquarters in Hollywood. Last summer, he signed a deal to be a spokesperson for Crest and Scope. He's a partner in eight restaurants. Sometimes he subs as host of Larry King Live. This all makes the average cultural elitist want to gag on his fair-trade espresso. Many of Seacrest's contemporaries dismiss him as the Malibu-tanned, alabaster-toothed embodiment of everything that is callow and one-dimensional about 21st-century pop culture. At least in public. Odds are, many are secretly watching Seacrest break down reports about the most recent embryo in a Hollywood womb on the eleven o'clock edition of E! News. As the anchor and managing editor, he produces super-quick and -consumable segments with a tone that's insidery and archlaced with a little Perez Hilton–style mockery but not so much that it alienates the audience, Today's third hour targets. Ratings have more than doubled since he joined the program in 2006.
The valves and pistons of the Seacrest machine, a multimedia behemoth that culls, coats, and dispenses celebrity news, are greased with the extraordinary trust Hollywood's A-list places in Seacresteven those twitchy from prolonged exposure to paparazzi swarms and tabloid probes. "Ryan Seacrest wasn't the first person to think of doing a reality show with Denise Richards, but he was able to sign her," says Ted Harbert, the president and CEO of Comcast Entertainment, which owns E!. "He wasn't the first person to think of doing a show with the Kardashians, but he was able to sign them. There have been a handful of people in television history who could do that. You put him in a room with somebody, and he can sign them."