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Clear Channel in Hip-Hop Deal

Dec 13, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Clear Channel Entertainment Television has joined forces with Russell Simmons’ production company Def On Demand to produce a dozen episodes of a live music series titled “Def On Demand Live!”

The project aspires to be the “Austin City Limits” of hip-hop-a one-hour intimate concert production that also takes advantage of Clear Channel’s numerous entertainment venues, production resources and marketing outlets.

Though planners envision a syndication debut for the series followed by a video-on-demand release, no distribution agreements have been signed. Producers will shop the series next month at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference and are currently in talks with cable operators.

“We’re sort of doing what rookies do. We are going humbly into the marketplace because we know the hip-hop genre as an undertaking of commerce is huge in every area,” said Steve Sterling, senior VP of CCET. “Television has obviously had a real challenge with hip-hop because there’s content issues and presentation issues. Nobody’s stepped up like this to do a series.”

Def On Demand, which was founded by media entrepreneur Will Griffin in partnership with Mr. Simmons and longtime television director Stan Lathan, produces HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and “Def Poetry Jam” and hopes the new series will add another performance-based title to its slate.

“If you look at television, there aren’t a lot of production companies focusing on urban-oriented content, and those that do are frequently doing sitcoms,” Mr. Griffin said. “We’re the only ones doing anything live and urban on television.”

Mr. Sterling said the series will be shot in high definition and that Clear Channel may be able to offer cross-promotional support through a syndicated radio version of the series.

“This genre of music is so dominant; it’s the No. 1 radio format, yet it strangely has no TV show of its own,” he said.

“Because we’re doing this out of the entertainment division, the primary assets we’re able to use are venue-, Web- and market-driven. But we are going to our beloved cousins in radio and presenting [the idea] to them.”