Do It Live!


No matter what you think of Bill O’Reilly’s politics, there’s no arguing with his ability to generate tremendous attention for Fox News Channel. But unfortunately for both O’Reilly and his network, he most likely closed the book on his greatest television moment years ago.

If you’ve never seen the clip of his famous meltdown while taping a closing segment on Inside Edition, I strongly advise you to remedy this situation. Not satisfied with what he sees on the prompter in front of him, the anchor launches into a wonderful tirade, as if he is facing a studio full of staffers with the last name Olbermann. But the memorable line, of course, is his expletive- filled exclamation: “We’ll do it live… [naughty word] it…we’ll do it live!”

And “doing it live” is my advice to television networks and studios hoping to help make a middling show into a hit, or turn a hit into a monster. I don’t mean airing a show live; I mean finding a way to take the brand on tour to let viewers get a little closer to the action. You hopefully bring in some new fans along the way—and make a few bucks. Old-school advertising is still king, and Twitter and other social networking sites are infinitely easier, quicker and cheaper, but going face-to-face remains the best way to sell anything.

I really started to think about this when Lost held a screening in Hawaii and got a reported 15,000 fans to show up. (If that number was inflated, so, too, are attendance figures on many pro sports crowds. Welcome to the business of live events.)

Then recently, more live bookings popped up around the country to connect fans with favorite shows that are either on the air or possibly will be again. The Glee tour was a huge hit from the outset, but imagine what might have happened had the tour been announced after the show really takes off when it airs alongside American Idol.

Conan O’Brien announced his own live tour to keep his brand active while he rides out the gap between his NBC jettisoning and his next TV gig at Fox or elsewhere. People snapped up tickets from the start, thanks to great viral buzz both from Twitter and well-read zealots in the media such as The Wrap’s Joe Adalian.

True, a musically inclined show like Glee or Idol makes perfect sense for a tour, and talk show hosts have been doing standup in clubs around the nation forever. But if I were a TV executive, I would be strongly pursuing an opportunity for an ancillary presentation of my show in the places that actually make TV shows into broadcast-sized hits: the flyover states.

Granted, coming up with the ideas is a little tougher for a scripted show, but that’s what creatives are for. Maybe it’s things like taking the cast of The Big Bang Theory on tour, and having them do a funny, science- themed quiz bowl competition with local celebs in front of a huge theater in a bunch of good-sized markets. Live events like these would not bring in hundreds of millions, but they could put a few bucks in the coffers. It’s also a way to drive loyalty, build viewers and break through the clutter.

So, if you’re looking for a way to grow a show, it’s a good time to, of all things, channel Bill O’Reilly and say, “[Expletive] it! Do it live!”