MTV to play ‘Name’ game

Network developing new take on 'Tune'

MTV thinks it can name that tune in three networks.

In an unprecedented move, MTV Networks is developing a new take on “Name that Tune” that will play across its three music-centric cablers: MTV, VH1 and CMT.

Basic format of the musical quizzer will remain the same across the MTV universe, but each net will produce original episodes modified to match the musical tastes of its respective target audience. That means MTV viewers will see contestants trying to identify tunes by T-Pain or Timbaland, while players on the CMT: Country Music Television version might attempt to guess a song by Shania Twain or Carrie Underwood.

Deal marks the first time “from the outset, that we’ve decided to pursue (a format) jointly,” said Brian Graden, president of entertainment for the MTV Networks Music Groups.

He’s ordered six episodes of the new “Tune” for each of the networks, for a total of 18 segs. Skein is expected to debut during the first half of 2008.

Graden said he’s planning “a significant reimagining” of the “Tune” format, even as he tries to retain some of the basic underpinnings of the show.

“The play-along element of the show was so strong that it has to remain the same,” said Graden. “There’s something about hearing a melody and that great rush you get when you know what the song is.”

That said, “We want to reinterpret the show for the digital age we live in,” exec added.

Indeed, the new “Tune” will also have a major online component, as per MTV Networks’ digital strategy of feeding its multiple TV brands into its singular online music business.

“This played into our endgame, which is being able to create digital extensions,” Graden said, declining to specify details of just how “Tune” will make the leap online.

MTV licensed “Tune” from Sandy Frank and Media Rights Capital, both of which will get exec producer credits.

Frank set up “Tune” at CBS last year, with Donny Osmond on board at one point to host what appeared to be a fast-track revival of the show (Daily Variety, Oct. 10, 2006). Eye ultimately opted against bringing the show back, allowing Frank to sell the rights to the net’s Viacom cousin, MTV Networks.

MTV is still searching for a showrunner — or showrunners — for the new “Tune” trio. Also to be determined is whether each of the shows will share a host, whether it will be a half-hour or hour and just how the three shows will be rolled out to auds.

“The options range from each channel taking a window, or a primetime block where we feed viewers from one channel to the next,” Graden said. “We could even possibly air it on all three channels at the same time.”

Execs from each of the three nets will oversee their respective editions of “Tune.” Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley will exec produce for MTV, while Michael Hirschorn will do the same for VH1 and Bob Kusbit will handle CMT’s take.

This isn’t the first time that a “Name That Tune”-like skein has landed on the MTV Networks. Under former programming chief Jeff Gaspin (now at NBC), VH1 teamed with Frank for 50 episodes of “Name That Video” in 2001.

“Tune” first appeared on TV in the 1950s, with revivals in the 1970s and 1980s. Various versions of the skein have aired on NBC, CBS and in syndication. Producer Phil Gurin also flirted with a “Tune” revival back in 2001, planning a take that would blend musical perfs with the game format.

Gurin now exec produces NBC’s “The Singing Bee,” which — along with Fox’s “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” — brought back music-themed quizzers to primetime over the summer.