CBS has reupped its pact to broadcast the Tony Awards for another three years, keeping the legit industry’s top kudo ceremony on the net through 2013.
The Tonys’ annual three-hour berth on national network TV carries major weight in the New York theater industry, repping one of the most important marketing opportunities of the year for Broadway as a brand and for the productions showcased, particularly the musicals.
CBS, meanwhile, can tout its ongoing commitment to the performing arts. Net has broadcast the Tonys since 1978 and also reserves an annual slot for the Kennedy Center Honors.
“The performing arts are one of the lifebloods of the industry, and these broadcasts speak to our tradition of supporting them,” said CBS entertainment prexy Nina Tassler. “Events such as the Tony’s and Kennedy Center Honors — that recognize and showcase such amazing artistic and creative talent — are important to us, and an important part of a business dedicated to creating great entertainment across all mediums.”
Ratings for the Tony broadcast are often on the low side, with the inherently local nature of Manhattan-based Broadway often counted as an obstacle in attracting national awareness of the latest industry offerings. The June kudocast also regularly faces tough competish from the NBA Finals.
The most recent ceremony, which featured a slew of Hollywood names including host Sean Hayes and winners Denzel Washington and Catherine Zeta-Jones, was down to about 7 million viewers following the three-year high of 7.4 million posted by the 2009 outing.
Last year’s ceremony, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, recently picked up Emmys for special class program and for writing for variety, music or comedy special. Kudocast also picked up trophies in 2008, 2007 and 2005.
Although ratings may not hit blockbuster levels, the prime demo of Broadway theatergoers is well off and well educated (if also skewing older), making Tony watchers a potentially desirable aud for advertisers.
Under the agreement between CBS and the Tonys, the network ponies up a broadcast licensing fee that goes toward the production of the ceremony.
The new three-year deal is the first time in recent years CBS has reupped with the awards producers for more than a single year at a time, according to Howard Sherman, exec director of the American Theater Wing, one of the orgs that produces the Tonys. “It gives us the opportunity to plan for the future, which we couldn’t always do,” he said.
Exact date for the 2011 ceremony remain up in the air as organizers settle on a new venue for the awards. The Tonys’ previous berth at Radio City Music Hall will next year be usurped by an incoming Cirque du Soleil show.