Clear Channel partners with show to provide access to talent
HOLLYWOOD — The beat goes on for “Pepsi Smash.”Despite flat frosh-season ratings, soda giant Pepsi-Cola and the WB have pacted to bring back the primetime music showcase, which bowed last summer. Joel Gallen (“Not Another Teen Movie”) of Tenth Planet Prods. returns as exec producer. For its sophomore season, “Pepsi Smash” will get a big dose of promo fizz: Concert giant Clear Channel is coming aboard as a partner in the show and will provide access to touring talent. While a good chunk of the skein will remain studio-based, new format will include in-concert perfs from touring artists. In addition to access to top-name talent, Clear Channel connection will provide plenty of cross-promotional opportunities, thanks to the conglom’s vast radio holdings. “Pepsi Smash” will get an eight-week run on the Frog, up from a six-episode order last summer. Skein will air Thursdays at 8 starting May 27. Renewal is something of a surprise, given that the performance-based skein was anything but a ratings smash in its first incarnation. Helping matters from the Frog’s p.o.v. is that Pepsi covered most production costs on the skein last year. A similar arrangement seems likely this season, though both sides declined comment on the specifics of the deal. Frog co-CEO Jordan Levin said the weblet believes the skein can be a Nielsen success. “Music is an indelible part of the DNA that has made the WB,” Levin said. “We’re going to amp up the show with our partnership with Clear Channel, which will provide us access to huge touring acts. The bigger the act, the bigger the audience potential.” Katie Lacey, Pepsi-Cola North America’s VP of colas and media, said the soda maker doesn’t base all of its promotional and sponsorship efforts on ratings. “Not everything is judged on surface results,” she said. “For some brands, we hand out cans (of soda) at the X Games. That can be more important than reaching 40 million people in one night.” Frog’s core demo of auds 12-24 matches perfectly with Pepsi’s target demo. And more than 18 million viewers watched at least part of “Smash” last year, when acts such as Black Eyed Peas and Maroon 5 performed. “The teen audience is something that’s very important to Pepsi, and (“Smash”) is something that gives us the opportunity to bring a new music experience to today’s teens … and make a connection with them,” Lacey said. Gallen also has been working to tweak the format of “Pepsi Smash.” In addition to adding performances from the road, each episode will include a so-called Smash-Off, an interactive component in which viewers will be able to vote on which artists get to close the show with an encore perf. There’ll be separate votes for East and West Coast feeds. Skein is also introducing the Pepsi Smash-Mobile, a traveling tour bus that will double as a set from which a road correspondent will report. Levin also believes bowing “Smash” right after the May sweep ends — skein didn’t launch until midsummer last year — will lead to greater sampling. What’s more, Frog will launch new drama “Summerland” — and, perhaps, some other unscripted skeins — this summer. “Last year (“Smash”) was an island in the middle of summer, and tougher to launch,” Levin said.