E! was originally launched on July 31, 1987 as Movietime, a service that aired movie trailers, entertainment news, event and awards coverage, and interviews as an early example of a national barker channel. The channel was founded by Larry Namer and Alan Mruvka. Early Movietime hosts included Greg Kinnear, Paula Abdul, Katie Wagner, Julie Moran, Suzanne Kay (daughter of Diahann Carroll), Mark DeCarlo, Sam Rubin and Richard Blade.
Controlling ownership was originally held by a consortium of five cable television providers (Comcast, Continental Cablevision, Cox Cable, TCI, and Warner Cable), HBO/Warner Communications, and various founding shareholders, with HBO directly programming and managing the network. In 1989, after Time-Life bought Warner Communications to fend off a takeover bid by Paramount, the new Time Warner company held four of the eight major ownership positions and took over management control of Movietime and renamed the network as E!: Entertainment Television on June 1, 1990; this name change was made to emphasize its widening coverage of the celebrity-industrial complex, contemporary film, television and music, daily Hollywood gossip, and fashion.
In 1997, Comcast, one of the minority partners, teamed up with Disney/ABC Cable Networks to buy the channel after Time-Warner had exercised their put agreement. In November 2006, Comcast (which eventually had the largest ownership stake in the network through mergers with forerunners of TCI and Continental under various circumstances) acquired Disney's 39.5% share of E! for $1.23 billion to gain full ownership of the network as part of a broader programming carriage agreement between Disney/ABC and Comcast.
Comcast Entertainment Group, the company's television unit, became a division of the NBCUniversal Television Group, after Comcast acquired a 51% majority stake in NBCUniversal from General Electric in January 2011. E!'s only sister networks prior to the NBC Universal merger were Style Network (now Esquire Network) and G4, along with Comcast's sports networks: Versus, Comcast SportsNet and Golf Channel. In the case of Versus, E! staff produced that network's Sports Soup and G4's Web Soup, while the Orlando-based Golf Channel featured no crossovers with E! at all due to incompatible audiences and operations. Versus and Golf Channel were taken under the direct control of the NBC Sports division, with the former being renamed NBC Sports Network in January 2012, and are no longer connected to their former sister networks beyond advertising and in-house operations.
On July 9, 2012, the channel introduced a revised logo (the first change to its logo since the network rebranded as E! in 1990), removing the exclamation mark background behind the "E" but keeping the exclamation point underneath, along with a new slogan "Pop of Culture", which coincided with the launch of the new series Opening Act. The network also started the process of introducing scripted programming (the first series, The Royals, premiering in March 2015), in addition to its existing reality and documentary series. The changes were announced during E!'s programming upfront presentation on April 30, 2012.
E! is one of the few U.S. general-entertainment cable channels that broadcasts a daily news program; its flagship entertainment news program is E! News, which debuted on September 1, 1991. The weekday program (which also has an hour-long weekend edition) features stories and gossip about celebrities, and the film, music and television industries, and has been broadcast under various formats since its launch, even being aired live for a time during the mid-2000s. It was first hosted by Dagny Hultgreen. Steve Kmetko was a host from 1994-2002. It has been hosted by Terrence Jenkins and Giuliana Rancic since 2012 and 2006, respectively, with Ryan Seacrest (who co-anchored the program from 2006 to 2012) serving as managing editor of the news operation.
E! News was the only entertainment news show on the channel for much of its history until 2006, when the channel launched The Daily 10, hosted by Sal Masekela and Catt Sadler (Debbie Matenopoulos also co-hosted from the show's inception until 2008); the series was cancelled in September 2010 after E! announced that the weekday editions of E! News would be expanded to one hour starting on October 25, 2010.
E! also carried a simulcast of business news channel Bloomberg Television from 2004 to January 2009, when the latter network had expanded its cable and satellite carriage to a level that allowed the discontinuation of the simulcast. During its time on E!, the 5 to 8 a.m. block was the most watched period for the network, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Outside of E! News telecasts, the channel runs an E! News–branded ticker displaying entertainment news headlines each half-hour during regular programming (except during airings of E! News and The Soup, and the channel's early morning infomercial block) which is updated daily; fast-breaking entertainment headlines (such as a celebrity arrest or death) may also be displayed on a ticker, during any program when warranted.
E! is known for its live red carpet pre-shows for the industry's three prominent award shows, the Primetime Emmy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Academy Awards, and is famous for its fashion critiques by Joan Rivers; Rivers also hosted post-awards specials under the title Fashion Police, which became a regular weekly series in September 2010. The network also produces a decent amount of documentary and biographical series, most notably E! True Hollywood Story; many of E!'s original specials are entertainment-related ranging from light fare (such as 25 Cutest Child Stars All Grown Up) to serious fare (such as 15 Most Unforgettable Hollywood Tragedies). It also produces specials centering on investigative and crime stories including E! Investigates, which features topical investigative reports on subjects ranging from child prostitution to teenage pregnancy.
In recent years, the network has become well known for its reality television programs. Its most popular series as of 2011 is Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which has spawned three spin-offs (Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami, Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and Khloe and Lamar). Other original programming airing on the network includes Hello Ross, The Soup, Fashion Police, and Married to Jonas. Reality programs that have previously aired on E! include The Anna Nicole Show, Sunset Tan, Gastineau Girls, The Girls Next Door (which itself has spawned two spinoffs: Holly's World and Kendra), The Spin Crowd, Married to Rock, Ice Loves Coco, Dirty Soap , The Wanted Life and Chasing The Saturdays
E! airs three comedy programs: the late night talk show Chelsea Lately, hosted by comedian Chelsea Handler, its scripted/improvised spin-off After Lately, and The Soup (based on the popular 1991-2002 E! series Talk Soup), featuring clips of the previous week's TV shows with humorous commentary delivered by the host, actor/comedian Joel McHale. Love You, Mean It, a weekly comedic look at pop culture hosted by Whitney Cummings and produced by Handler, debuted on November 28, 2012, though low ratings resulted in its cancellation in 2013.
Uncharacteristic for any television network, E! airs the full credits of the current program at the beginning of the show rather than at the end; some programs, most prominently E! News, air their copyright tags in a similar fashion, and many series often feature production company credits at the start of the final segment of a program. However, feature films airing on the channel display the original studio production credits at the traditional end of program placement, alongside promotions for other E! programs.
Over the years, E! has occasionally run acquired programming including reruns of Alice, Absolutely Fabulous, 20/20 lifestyle-based interview shows from ABC (since removed under NBCUniversal ownership), and edited 60-minute versions of Saturday Night Live, though fewer of these programs currently air. The only programming currently airing on E! that it does not produce are broadcast standards-edited reruns of the former HBO series Sex and the City originally carried by HBO's sister network TBS, and feature films that air under the banner "Movies We Love"; the latter was part of a since-abandoned initiative by the network to use films to increase the network's ratings, though the branding remains, and low and mid-grossing female focused films from the Universal Pictures library usually receive their basic cable premiere on E!, with higher-grossing films premiering on USA Network. The network has aired same-week runs of NBC series (such as The Voice, Fashion Star, Whitney, and Are You There, Chelsea?), and in the past aired previews of G4 programming to give that network an extended promotional platform due to their lowered carriage when it was removed from DirecTV in November 2010.
E! HD is a high definition simulcast feed of E! that launched on December 8, 2008; like the rest of E!'s sister lifestyle and sports networks owned by former parent Comcast Entertainment Group and subsequently the NBC cable networks, the feed broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format. Currently, filmed program content and all of the network's post-2010 programs, along with limited pre-2010 content is carried in the format, with HD programming airing in a letterbox format on the SD channel (some films remain in 480i due to contractual or technical reasons). The HD feed is available on most cable and telco providers, along with both satellite services.
During E!'s run as a broadcast service in Canada, the E! Ontario version of the service until the December 2008 discontinuation of the E! broadcast television system was available in HD over Hamilton, Ontario-based CHCH-TV (channel 11) on its channel 18 digital signal, though the majority of E!'s programming outside of American primetime series before the shut down of the television system was not available in the format.
E! Online is the online arm of E!, featuring live updates on entertainment news stories; the website includes an online-only entertainment news bulletin titled E! News Now, which is updated each weekday. The website also provides live streaming video of major red carpet events including movie premieres and award shows such as the Academy Awards and the Emmys, along with some blogs involving shows such as The Soup. Columnists featured on the website include Kristin dos Santos (the "Watch with Kristin" television blog), Ted Casablanca ("The Awful Truth" gossip blog), and Marc Malkin (writer of an eponymous gossip blog and host of a daily video blog on the site).
As part of the rebrand of the cable channel on July 9, 2012, EOnline.com was redesigned for HTML5, including tablet and mobile devices.
Unlike most international cable channels that have licensed an American cable channel's branding and programming, E! has existed as two separate television channels in Canada – in both broadcast and pay television forms.
On September 7, 2007, Canwest Global Communications rebranded its CH television system as E!. CH originally launched on February 12, 2001 by CHCH/Hamilton, Ontario as a secondary service of the Global Television Network; the CH/E! system would later include four additional Canwest-owned stations in Quebec (CJNT/Montreal), British Columbia (CHEK/Victoria and CHBC/Kelowna) and Alberta (CHCA/Red Deer), and three affiliates owned by Jim Pattison Group in British Columbia (CKPG/Prince George and CFJC/Kamloops) and Alberta (CHAT/Medicine Hat). The E! television system shut down on September 1, 2009 due to low ratings and corporate financial difficulties that eventually led to Canwest filing for bankruptcy protection and selling its properties to Shaw Media for $6.7 million USD; the E! owned-and-operated stations experienced varied fates (CHCH and CJNT were sold to Channel Zero, CHEK was sold to an employee-led group; CHBC remained with Canwest and was converted into a Global O&O, and CHCA ceased operations outright), while the Pattison Group stations affiliated with the Rogers Media-owned Citytv system. As E!, local news and other regional programming, as well as most local community sponsorships on the O&O stations, used local branding (incorporating the callsign branding scheme common with Canadian stations not owned by a network or television system). This decision was at least partly made to avoid confusion with E! News, but likely intended to ensure that local newscasts were not perceived as celebrity-oriented.
The E! brand would later return to Canada on November 1, 2010, when CTVglobemedia (whose assets are now owned by Bell Media) signed a multi-year/multi-platform agreement with Comcast to rebrand Category 2 specialty channel Star! (which had a similar format to E! U.S. and had carried some of its programming prior to the 2007 rebranding of CH) into a Canadian version of E! on November 29, 2010.
E! was launched in Germany on December 2, 2002. E! HD was launched on April 30, 2013. Alexander von Roon produces a German version. Melinda Cohen and Sabrina Alashi host.
E! was launched in France on September 12, 2004.
E! Philippines was launched in mid-1997 on UHF Channel 31 besides CTV-31 Manila (Cinema Television). In 2000, CTV-31 Manila leased the entire block of UHF 31 and branded the channel as E! Philippines. It was originally broadcast 24 hours a day, but in 2001 it cut its broadcast hours down to 6 p.m. – 12 a.m. due to poor ratings and signal outages. By 2003, E! Philippines was forced to shut down. Some of E!'s programs were brought to the Philippines and remade in a local version, one of which was Wild On! Philippines.
Three years after the relaunch as a standalone cable channel, E! produced its very first original reality series in Asia, It Takes Gutz to Be A Gutierrez starring the Gutierrez family.