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B'way preps play-per-view.

NEW YORK TV's longtime flirtation with Broadway may finally turn into a real romance.

Last month, CEO Bruce Brandwen and chairman Kay Koplovitz announced the formation of Broadway Television Network (BTN), which promises to produce up to four live feeds of hit musicals a year for pay-per-view.

Meanwhile, the Nederlanders and Michael Fuchs-led Broad way Digital Entertainment (BDE) have now joined forces to launch "Broadway Tonight," what they are calling Broadway's first global television subscription service. The series begins in fall 2001, and will consist of four new Broadway productions a year, presented to the global satellite/cable audience for a total price of $79.95 per household.

The theater series will be created expressly for "Broadway Tonight," with each of the shows housed in a Nederlander theater.

In an unusual move, taping will take place in a television studio prior to each production's Broadway opening. Shows will be presold to cable TV, and made available to TV audiences after the conclusion of limited theatrical runs.

Fuchs, BDE's founding investor and former chairman of HBO and Warner Music, described the creative strategy of "Broadway Tonight": It "is to put major motion picture and television stars in each of its four shows for 12-week limited runs."

Robert Nederlander mentioned that the three-month commitment would help attract Hollywood stars, offering as examples Nicole Kidman in "The Blue Room" and Woody Harrelson in "The Rainmaker."

Regarding the financial benefits of the arrangement, he added, "Preselling the broadcast and video rights to a show minimizes the financial risks involved in mounting a production."

The Nederlanders are also one of the four primary New York theater owners helping to fund Broadway Television Network, Citigroup being a major investor in BTN.

Nederlander saw no conflict in his company's involvement in the two different TV orgs. "It is not uncommon to invest in a number of things that have a potential on Broadway," he said. "... We hope all of them are successful."

"Broadway Tonight" will develop "primarily dramas," while BTN is committed to musicals. Regarding plays vs. tuners, Nederlander commented, "It's really a question of what the appropriate management thinks ought to be done."

BTN taped "Smokey Joe's Cafe" on Jan. 15, and "Putting It Together" will be taped Sunday for airings later this year. Both tapings took place in Broadway theaters before a live audience.

According to Koplovitz, all other pay-per-view satellite feeds of Broadway musicals in the BTN series will emanate live from a New York theater.

That's in contrast to the approach of "Broadway Tonight." BDE president and CEO Basil Hero said all "Broadway Tonight" productions would be taped in a TV studio. "To us the theater is a temple, and you cannot put cameras in there," he said.

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Author:HOFLER, ROBERT
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 21, 2000
Words:455
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