VH1 PLANS BIG ‘ROCK’ ROLLOUT

When VH1 launches the new weekly concert series “Hard Rock Live Presented by Pontiac Sunfire” in March, it will be backed by a hefty $30 million marketing and promotional budget – said by the Viacom-owned cable net to be the largest such sum ever committed to hype a TV music program.

Robert Small, co-creator of MTV’s “Unplugged,” is producer of the series. The show will feature taped performances of various musical acts performing in front of a studio audience in New York City.Series, distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Pay TV, Cable and Network Features, is also expected to showcase behind-the-scenes interviews and candid moments with the musical artists as well as vignettes culled from the Hard Rock Cafe’s 35,000-piece memorabilia collection.

The move to greenlight such an expensive and elaborate series could be designed – in the wake of TCI’s move to drop VH1 from more than 1 million subscriber homes – to help send a message to cable system operators that the network is going to try harder to be a player in the original programming arena.

Pontiac, the show’s exclusive presenting sponsor, has committed dedicated advertising to the series as well as cross-promotional TV and magazine ads that tout both Pontiac’s Sunfire automobile and “Hard Rock Live.”

VH1 prexy John Sykes said of the announcement, “We have had a longstanding, fruitful relationship with the Hard Rock organizations and look forward to taking it to the next level.”

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