A.M. Shake-Ups, Rock ‘n’ Roll

Apr 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

With the morning show competition for viewers and high-profile bookings more fierce than it has been in years, the lucrative summer concert series broadcasts by NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” this year promise to be a real battle of the bands.

Ditto the morning show movie-star wars that will mark the busy summer flicks season.

While “Today” used to get all the A-list musical acts, “GMA” has assembled its most of-the-moment, high-profile lineup for summer yet. “The tide has turned,” said “GMA” entertainment producer Mark Bracco, for whom this is the fourth concert series since joining “GMA.”

“Today,” which started its outdoor concerts 10 years ago, kicks off Tuesday with Bruce Springsteen, who taped a concert and interview with Matt Lauer last week in New Jersey.

“GMA” starts May 20 with U2, in its first morning show concert, also on tape, at a stop on their “Vertigo 2005 World Tour.”

Other acts that have been booked to perform on the Midtown Manhattan plaza outside “Today’s” Studio 1A include Neil Diamond, the Dave Matthews Band (also recorded on location), Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, Bryan Adams and Def Leppard. The Black Eyed Peas, Backstreet Boys, Hilary Duff, James Taylor, Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire (the official 10th anniversary “Today” concert) also are on the schedule.

The other acts in “GMA’s” lineup include Rascal Flatts, Shakira, Santana, Ringo Starr, Jesse McCartney, Patti LaBelle, Missy Elliott, Kanye West, Fantasia, Clay Aiken, Jessica Simpson, Keith Urban, Hilary Duff and Avril Lavigne. The venue for “GMA’s” concerts again is Bryant Park, a few blocks from the ABC morning show’s Times Square studio.

“The Early Show” on CBS, which runs third in the ratings, can line up a promotable concert series by being willing to book acts after they have appeared on other morning shows. On the “Early Show” lineup are Backstreet Boys, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Jessica Simpson, Santana and Fantasia. Most of the appearances will be taped in the CBS Broadcast Center across town because the “Early” plaza is under construction.

For the morning shows, the concerts translate directly into advertising revenue. Listerine is sponsoring the “GMA” lineup, Toyota is “Today’s” concert sponsor and Ambien sponsors the “Early Show” concerts.

“They do make money for the show,” said “Early Show” executive producer Michael Bass. For record labels, the morning show appearance can produce more sales than performances on late-night shows, Mr. Bracco said.

Mr. Bracco credits “GMA’s” ramped up bookings to its willingness to feature musical performers before they’ve hit the big time and the willingness to devote more airtime and energy to the act.

“Most people out there are grateful when you take a chance on them,” he said.

U2 will do three songs for “GMA” May 20 and two more for “Weekend GMA” (similar to the recent Mariah Carey performance, for which “GMA” shut down its side street and erected an elaborate stage).

“Today” is selective about its concert lineup. “It’s a mix of favorites and the biggest names,” said Tim Bruno, the NBC show’s supervising producer for entertainment. “When you perform on the ‘Today’ show, you’ve kind of made it.”

The morning shows’ movie-star wars also are under way.

“Today” has secured “War of the Worlds'” Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Steven Spielberg. When “Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith” opens, “Today” will interview Samuel L. Jackson, while “GMA” will feature young heartthrob Hayden Christenson.

“GMA’s” movie bookings will lead off with “Monster-in-Law” (including Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda) and “The Longest Yard” (including Adam Sandler and Chris Rock).

When Hilary Duff toured last year in support of her movie, Warner Bros.’ “A Cinderella Story,” “GMA” created a “Cinderella for a Day” contest that produced poignant TV moments and extra buzz about the movie. Starting in mid-May, “GMA” will invite viewers to nominate real-life “superheroes,” who will be honored at a special screening of “Batman Begins” in their hometown.

For “Monster-in-Law,” the morning show is soliciting real-life stories about mothers-in-law who are “monsters.” It also agreed to feature co-stars Michael Vartan (who also stars in ABC’s “Alias”) and Wanda Sykes.

Mr. Bruno said “Today” decided a year ago to cut back on movie-related bookings. “We thought we were doing too much,” he said. “The movie studios are always looking for the most segments.”

Instead, he said, “We’ll do what is right for us. We kind of targeted the ones we wanted and we got them. It’s sort of like casting the film for the show.”

“Today” is more likely to want a family film, a movie based on “a book Katie’s girls have read,” or featuring “someone Matt likes.”

“Today” went for “The Honeymooners,” due out in June, with Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps in the roles played on TV by Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. “For us it works,” said Mr. Bruno.

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