Network nabs rights to hourlong version of show
NBC has secured the rights to an edited, one-hour version of “Living with Michael Jackson” — the 2003 documentary that led to child molestation charges against the pop superstar.A version of the doc will run Monday night on the Peacock as a “Dateline NBC” special. Sister news cabler MSNBC has also secured 12 airings of the special. “Living” has already aired six times on the cabler this weekend, and will air six more times over the next two weeks. Martin Bashir, who conducted the doc’s interview back when he was with the U.K.’s ITV1, is now one of ABC’s “Nightline” anchors — which means the Peacock is in the unusual position of featuring another network’s news personality. The program featured news that Jackson shared his bedroom with other people’s children, among other revelations. Bashir spent eight months with Jackson, including time at the Neverland Ranch. He was also there in Berlin the night Jackson dangled his baby over a hotel balcony. “Living with Michael Jackson” originally aired on ABC in February 2003 as a part of “20/20.” Program posted a commanding 27.1 million viewers — repping, at the time, the Alphabet’s best Thursday ratings in 12 years. It’s unclear how much NBC might have paid for the rights to the six-year-old special. In 2003, Alphabet paid between $4 million and $5 million for the doc, beating out NBC. In Britain, “Living with Michael Jackson” was also a smash, drawing 15 million viewers — more than half the entire British TV audience — on ITV1. Granada initially generated revenues of around $10 million for the doc. After the Santa Barbara district attorney decided to charge Jackson with child molestation in November 2003, VH1 picked up rights to re-air “Living with Michael Jackson.” The media frenzy that month rivals what’s now unfolding in light of Jackson’s death. Jackson was angered by the documentary, and filed suit against Granada to stop it from using any unscreened footage. He said at the time that the program misrepresented him, and complained to U.K. regulators about it. “Living with Michael Jackson” also spawned a rebuttal program, “The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See.” That special, which aired on Fox, used footage from Jackson’s personal cameraman, who shot video of Bashir as he interviewed the performer. That footage contrasted with “Living,” and questioned Bashir’s content and intent in producing the original doc. Elsewhere, the broadcast and cable nets continued to revise their programming plans over the weekend to include more Jackson specials, news reports and tributes. BET’s Sunday night “BET Awards” will took on a different tone, as the kudofest morphed into a tribute to Jackson. It took the death of Jackson, meanwhile, for MTV to do something it hasn’t done in years: Run music videos all day long. The cabler, which came of age during the “Thriller” era, started pre-empting its programming Thursday night with wall-to-wall Michael Jackson music videos, concert performances and other footage, and continued to do so right up until 6 p.m. on Friday. After that, the net premiered a new hour-long special, “A Celebration of Michael Jackson on MTV.” Channel also ran a repeat of “Randy Jackson’s America’s Best Dance Crew” that featured all Jackson hits. Sister nets MTV2, VH1 and VH1 Classic also ran Jackson-themed programming all weekend. TV Land ran the 1992 miniseries “The Jacksons: An American Dream” on Sunday, while E! Entertainment TV ran the singer’s “True Hollywood Story” edition throughout the weekend. It also had several other specials on tap. At the broadcast nets, ABC and NBC ran another round of Jackson specials on Friday night. Fox paid tribute by digging up the 1990 music video “Do the Bartman,” which was co-written, produced and voiced by Jackson. The video aired at the start of Sunday’s episode of “The Simpsons.” Jackson supplied his voice to the 1991 “Simpsons” episode “Stark Raving Dad,” in which he played a man in an asylum who thought he was Michael Jackson. Fox is believed to be looking into whether it can re-air that episode — but given the age of the seg, which long ago entered the show’s syndication package, it’s unclear whether that will happen. MyNetwork TV has scheduled a rebroadcast of the World Music Awards, featuring a tribute to Jackson, for Wednesday.