“You can fly!”… if you have enough money.
After the success of last year’s live The Sound of Music special, NBC is back with its effort to revive the one-night live musical tradition. On Thursday night, it is attempting a live version of Peter Pan, starring Christopher Walken and Allison Williams. (If you were watching TV on Thanksgiving Eve, NBC aired a “Making of” special, previewing what’s in store).
One way NBC is able to pull off these big live events is by charging advertisers some hefty fees. It is reportedly asking between $350,000 and $400,000 per commercial. In return, the ad buyers get lots of eyeballs. Last year 18.5 million people watched The Sound of Music live, and 22 million tuned in later.
Last year, the network did custom ads for Walmart that were integrated with songs from the show. It is unclear if they are doing that again this year, but Walmart is a major sponsor of the event, as some recent posts from the official NBC Facebook page make abundantly clear:
- “John, Wendy & Michael: Meet the Darling family in #PeterPanLive presented by Walmart. Join us Dec 4 at 8/7c!”
- “Walmart presents a once in a lifetime once upon a time experience… #PeterPanLive! Be there Thurs, Dec 4 at 8/7c!”
And Walmart is also cashing in by selling an exclusive version of the show that comes with a CD of the music. It’s already available for preorder.
Even if they skip the integrated ads, be prepared to see more commercials for Walmart than you do Lost Boys.
This on the heels of last week’s Macy’s day parade (which also aired on NBC), which I couldn’t help but notice is one gigantic parade of advertisements cleverly disguised as brightly colored floats, each with a corporate sponsor.
The Broadway spots are essentially short promos trying to get people to come see their shows, and even the legendary balloons are trying to sell something. Kids definitely see Toothless the dragon sailing down the streets of Manhattan and then beg to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2.
So, Is This Show Business, Or Is It Business? I say definitely business. Sure, it is a nice holiday tradition to have a live musical, but NBC wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t bring in big bucks.
Angel Cohn is a freelance journalist who has written about entertainment and television for the last 15 years. She is currently an editor at NJFamily.com. Follow her on Twitter at @angelcohn.