CBS has landed Mark Burnett's latest reality project, the search for a new lead singer of Australian rock band INXS.
CBS won the project over ABC and NBC, bringing Burnett back to the network that launched his prime-time reality career with Survivor. While the other networks made a very competitive offer, insiders say, CBS ultimately won the show because of Viacom's corporate synergy, with radio stations, billboards and music-oriented cable channels available to help promote the show.
"When you take into account Viacom's radio stations, MTV, VH1, and their billboards, it all lined up like a lunar eclipse," says Conrad Riggs, Burnett's business partner and co-executive producer on the show.
"We can't think of a better formula for success in the summer than Mark Burnett, rock music and a competition-style reality show," says Nancy Tellem, president of CBS Entertainment. "
Insiders say CBS is paying a "very high license fee" for the show, which includes some six 30-second-spots that Burnett can sell to advertisers, packaged with product placement perks. Burnett's boxing show, The Contender, went to NBC for an estimated $2.2 million per episode, more than some scripted dramas.
Mark Burnett Productions didn't pitch the show to Fox because they are stil steamed over Fox's decision to green light a boxing reality project, produced by Endemol, that is almost exactly the same format as The Contender, Burnett's joint project with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sylvester Stallone.
While speculation has been that Burnett's music show is his attempt to take a shot at Fox's American Idol, "this show has nothing to do with how we feel about how Fox handled the situation with The Next Great Champ," Riggs says. "It's a property we would have developed and sold regardless. We have been wanting to produce a music show for a long time. We didn't want to do something that was derivative or a rip-off of someone."
Having said that, Burnett has hired David Goffin, formerly a supervising producer on American Idol, as an executive producer. Goffin previously worked with Burnett on Eco-Challenge and Combat Missions.
The show is expected to premiere next summer, with 30 episodes ordered and two one-hour episodes airing each week.
How potential band members will be voted off is unclear, although viewers, the band and judges all will have input into who finally wins the gig.
The winner will become the band's new lead singer, going on a worldwide concert tour and recording an album.
INXS was popular in the U.S. in the 1980s after forming in the late 70s in Sydney, Australia. After lead singer Michael Hutchence committed suicide in 1997, Terence Trent D'Arby and Jon Stevens have filled in, but INXS has never identified a new full-time lead singer.
The band returned to full-scale touring in the middle of 2002.
Riggs says that INXS approached Mark Burnett Productions about doing a show and that INXS had been on their list. Along with Burnett, Riggs and Goffin, INXS band managers David Edwards and Michael Murchison will executive produce.