Pepsi Show Brings Music Back To Prime Time

It is the type of TV show that U.S. broadcast networks would not touch for years: the prime-time music series for hit artists. With "Pepsi Smash" (which debuts July 16), the WB network and Pepsi aim t

It is the type of TV show that U.S. broadcast networks would not touch for years: the prime-time music series for hit artists. With "Pepsi Smash" (which debuts July 16), the WB network and Pepsi aim to prove that resurrecting the format can turn into a "win-win" success for the network and the music business.

The show is in the tradition of such 1960s primetime, music-focused programs as Shindig! and Hullabaloo.

"The music industry needs a boost," says "Pepsi Smash" executive producer Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Productions. "There aren't a lot of broadcast-TV outlets for artists, and most of those shows have music only as a small segment. But this show is all about music. It'll be a great outlet for artists, hopefully for years to come."

As previously reported, Pepsi is the main sponsor of the show, which will feature mainstream pop, rock, R&B, and hip-hop acts.

At deadline, acts confirmed to be on the show include AFI, Ashanti, Michelle Branch, Evanescence, Fabolous, Foo Fighters, Beyonce Knowles, Lil' Mo, and Mya.

"Music has always been very important at the WB, and Pepsi came to us about doing a music show. Together, the WB and Pepsi represent two of the strongest youth brands anywhere," WB senior VP of alternative programming Keith Cox says.

"This is the kind of show our young, music-buying audience expects from us," he adds. "We decided to start the show in the summer, because summer is the biggest touring season for artists."

The WB claims to reach about 97 million U.S. households, making it the fifth-largest U.S. broadcast TV network. It targets 18- to 34-year-olds.

The WB initially ordered six episodes of the series. During its summer run, the one-hour "Pepsi Smash" will air at 9 p.m. ET/PT Wednesdays. The WB is considering a second time slot to air repeats of the show.

Each episode will be taped at the Ren-Mar Studios in Los Angeles one week before it airs. The studio will hold an audience of 500.

According to Gallen, "Pepsi Smash" will feature four acts per episode, with the acts each performing two songs live.

Gallen adds, "Three of the acts will be hit artists with instant name recognition, and the fourth artist will be an act just about to break to a mass audience."

In addition, the show will feature a music countdown and artist interviews.

"Pepsi Smash" will also encourage viewers to interact through the Internet. There will be contests held in association with artists' fan clubs and radio stations to send fans to tapings of the show.

The series will feature a regular host (to be announced), who will anchor the show along with rotating guest hosts.

If "Pepsi Smash" becomes a long-running staple on the WB, it would significantly alter how the music business prioritizes where artists are showcased on TV.

A prime-time music series on a broadcast network could easily draw a larger audience than its music-series rivals, which tend to be non-prime-time or cable-TV shows.

The series' time slot was previously occupied by fantasy drama "Angel," which Nielsen Media Research says averaged a 2.4 rating, or 3.7 million U.S. viewers, for the 2002-2003 TV season.

The balance of power in booking top artists could shift in favor of "Pepsi Smash" if the show is a hit.

"We want the music business to welcome us with open arms," Gallen says. "We want to make history with this show."