Polygram sets ‘Motown Live’

Heard it through the grapevine: Polygram TV is taking “Motown Live” to the syndie marketplace next year.

The weekly series, targeted for a fall 1998 syndie bow, will showcase live music and comedy performances. The hourlong show will zoom in on R&B, hip-hop and gospel acts from in and outside the Motown universe.

Polygram TV, whose parent company owns the venerable label, plans to produce 26 episodes for the 1998-99 season. The show’s perf segs will likely be taped at a central location in New York or Los Angeles, but no final decision has been made.

Programs devoted to live music have long had a spotty track record on TV, but Polygram TV prexy Bob Sanitsky says he’s encouraged by the longevity of the syndie weeklies “Soul Train” and “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.”

The show, to be offered to stations in exchange for seven minutes of advertising time, or half of the available commercial spots in each hour, could fare well as a primetime entry on urban UPN and WB Network affils, Sanitsky said.

Motown and its history have been the focus of several highly rated network TV specials over the past three decades. A variety hour, “The Motown Review,” had a six-week run on NBC in the summer of 1985.

“In Motown, we’ve got one of the great brand names of all time,” said Sanitsky. “And with R&B and hip-hop dominating the (pop music sales) charts, we think our timing with this kind of show couldn’t be better.”

The launch of “Motown Live” will dovetail with the 40th anniversary of the founding of the music and publishing empire built by entrepreneur Berry Gordy Jr. and such soulful stars as Diana Ross & the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and the Four Tops. Motown’s 40th birthday will be commemorated with a four-hour prime time special on ABC next May and a half-time tribute during the upcoming Super Bowl.

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