"I don't even know if Kim has had a chance to emotionally process this the way that she needs to," said Suzanne Kolb, president of E! Entertainment. "I don't have any indication that this is going to change her career path."
Kardashian's wedding to Humphries, televised on E! to huge ratings last month, was the highlight of the 72-day marriage. The wedding took place on Aug. 20; it was televised Oct. 9 and 10. The first day scored the highest ratings in E!'s history.
Before the marriage went sour, E! had planned to rerun the wedding in prime time Wednesday and Thursday this week. With Kardashian's announcement, E! moved the first part up to Monday and was set to run part two on Tuesday. Then, showing some uncertainty about whether that appeared insensitive, E! moved part two to Thursday at 5 p.m. An onscreen announcement at the show's beginning on Thursday will tell viewers about the divorce announcement.
Asked why E! was rerunning a wedding from a broken marriage, Kolb said, "We are a topical network and this is a topic at the moment." When it first aired, both parts of "Kim's Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event" attracted more than 4 million viewers - big numbers for a cable network.
Kardashian announced the divorce on her website, and some of the nearly 3,000 comments posted there Wednesday questioned whether the wedding was a hoax and all for show.
"I am trying not to read all the different media reports but it's hard not to see all the negative ones," Kardashian wrote on her website. "First and foremost, I married for love. I can't believe I even have to defend this. I would not have spent so much time on something just for a TV show."
In an interview on Australian television this week, Kardashian said "intuition" led her to end her marriage.
"I think when you know so deep in your heart that you just have to listen to your intuition, and follow your heart," Kardashian said. "There's no right or wrong thing to do."
Kardashian is in Australia with her sister Khloe to promote a line of handbags.
Kolb said she felt the network's statement about comments questioning the marriage's legitimacy was necessary because E!, the show's producers and the Kardashians were being unfairly treated. "At some point I felt we had to come out and say that was absurd," she said.
With a television family such as the Kardashians, "I don't know if the distinction between reality and contrivance means anything anymore," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.
E! executives may have to tread a little carefully around the controversy, but it also has the potential of being a gold mine, he said. Think of the alternative: In television drama, there's no bigger story-killer than a couple getting married and living happily ever after.
"Chevy manufactures cars out of their assembly line," he said. "The Kardashians manufacture stories like these. This is what they do. This is their product."
The Kardashian family has been a cottage industry for E! ever since "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" premiered in 2007. Kim was the star, known best at the time for a sex tape she did with singer Ray J.
The initial show produced three spinoffs: "Khloe and Lamar"; "Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami"; and "Kourtney and Kim Take New York." All the shows are currently between seasons, but another season of "Kourtney and Kim Take New York" premieres on Nov. 27, and it will deal in depth with Kim's marriage problems, Kolb said.
"The show is obviously going to have more drama in it that we originally expected with a newlywed couple," she said. "At the same time, people are going to be able to see how difficult this was for the two of them."
Not following the Kardashian story would be contrary to the way E! has covered the family for the past four years and the way the Kardashians have chosen to live their lives unfiltered, Kolb said. The rapid dissolution of the marriage put the Kardashian clan squarely in line for public ridicule.
Jay Leno opened his "Tonight" show Tuesday with six straight Kardashian jokes. "Seventy-two days," he said. "I was on at 10 o'clock longer than that."
David Letterman offered a Top Ten list of "Things That Have Lasted Longer Than the Kardashian Marriage." No. 5 was "ABC's remake of `Charlie's Angels."' No. 9 was "a conversation with Regis."
E! is walking a fine line with bankable reality stars and a potential backlash.
"I think you try to milk it and say you're not going to milk it," said Derek Baine, a cable TV analyst for SNL Kagan. "You don't want to seem real crass and taking advantage of a personal tragedy. In fact, it's their job to boost the ratings. There's nothing like a good car wreck."
In another interview on Australian television, Kardashian said she has not decided what to do with her 20.5-carat engagement ring, or with the gifts she received from her $172,000 wedding registry.