Madonna turns to HBO for live show

Event to be taped Aug. 26 in Detroit

HBO has landed the exclusive live TV rights to a performance by Madonna toward the end of her next concert tour.

Called “Madonna Live: The Drowned World Tour,” the event will take place at 9 p.m. Aug. 26 in Detroit.

Nancy Geller, senior VP of original programming for HBO, said the cablecast represents the third collaboration between the network and Madonna, and the first since the 1993 “Madonna — Live Down Under: The Girlie Show.”

Madonna always has chosen HBO over pay-per-view for her TV concerts, Geller said, because “we put all of our marketing resources to work — TV spots, magazine covers, billboards. Everyone will know the date and time of Madonna’s concert on HBO. Pay-per-view is not a noisemaker.”

In addition to all of the time that HBO plans to purchase in various media in advance of the performance, the promotional time set aside on HBO’s own airtime for the concert could rival what a major studio spends to open an A-list theatrical movie, according to various sources.

Geller said HBO is so confident that it will get the word out about the concert that it won’t even matter if Madonna is unable to make time for promotional appearances on shows like “Today,” “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Late Night With David Letterman.”

Being in the middle of the tour might make it impossible for Madonna to make the rounds of the talkshows to promote the HBO special, Geller said.

Summer dates

Madonna’s tour starts in Europe next month, and will move across America in July and August. HBO’s sister company America Online is sponsoring the tour, already having offered its subscribers the chance to buy reserved seats in various cities before the tickets went on sale.

The Madonna concert is unusual in that it represents the third concert scheduled by HBO this year, joining a Bruce Springsteen performance last month and a Britney Spears event to take place in November. Usually, HBO does no more than two a year, Geller said.

The producers of the Madonna concert are Caresse Henry’s Maverick Prods. (Madonna’s company) and Marty Callner’s Cream Cheese Prods. Callner previously produced HBO concerts featuring ‘N Sync, Marc Anthony, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler and Garth Brooks.

The director is Hamish Hamilton, who has done specials featuring Prince, Aerosmith, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Spice Girls. Hamilton also directed Madonna in a live Webcast at the Brixton Academy in England.