NBC News, NBC Sports
POWER MOVE: Booking One Direction before its chart-topping album was released; parlaying Olympics ratings gold into five consecutive days of “Today” concert programming.
THE RUNDOWN: A year after producing entertainment segments during the Super Bowl and the Olympics and attracting the largest crowds that the “Today” summer concert series has seen, Melissa Lonner is starting to book artists for 2013 and working on a new partnership for the series. “The summer concerts are such a known entity we want to expand and make it a bigger destination,” she says, “so artists benefit from the exposure and can partner with other entities.”
During the London Olympics, “Today” won the morning ratings and attracted an average audience of 6 million total viewers, according to Nielsen. Part of its post-Olympics strategy to hold onto viewers was an expansion of the weekly concert series to five consecutive days in August. “Today” won in both total viewers and the 25-54 demo during the 2011-12 season that ended Sept. 23, but started the new season behind ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Among the year’s highlights: the booking of PSY that coincided with the digital release of “Gangnam Style” as a single, Carly Rae Jepsen at her peak, Aerosmith — “on their best behavior” — and One Direction, which was inked long before the boy band was a chart-topper.
This year, Lonner “has a lot of dates on hold” for the summer bookings but nothing solid yet. The early art of the planning is balancing established and young acts and ensuring that performers in the same genre don’t appear back to back.
The toughest part of the job comes from people who are new to the business. “Artists are more focused on touring than making television appearances,” she says. “The people who have been around understand the importance of doing TV. Our job is to entertain audiences and help sell tickets. Too many artists think they’ll tweet about their shows and then call back about dates when tickets aren’t selling.”