Showdown At The Apollo

Inner City Broadcasting and The Heritage Networks face-off for control of It's Showtime at the Apollo. Who will emerge the victor in this mega-bucks battle?

to determine winners of the amateurs contest; and what was the “Apollo Kids” segment is now “Apollo Stars of Tomorrow.”

Both shows are competing head-to-head in the nation’s three largest markets, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, which Stacey Lynn Koerner, a media analyst at Initiative Media, a New York-based independent media planning and buying agency, says is unwise. “It’s stupid because you can’t possibly have the potential audience you could have had if you didn’t split the audience,” she explains. “It doesn’t mean that either show will not do well, or fail, but they won’t be as successful as they could have been if they were shown at different times.”

The early results suggest Showtime at the Apollo is winning the ratings battle. According to Nielsen ratings, in the New York market, Showtime at the Apollo scored a 2.8 rating, or 9 share, last October, while Showtime in Harlem had a .9 rating, or 3 share. That means Showtime at the Apollo had three times the audience as Showtime in Harlem. Liz Fischer, director of media relations for WNBC in New York, says, “In terms of Showtime at the Apollo vs. Showtime in Harlem, we are extremely pleased with the performance of Showtime at the Apollo.”

If the foundation likes the quality of the new Apollo program, they have the option of awarding the long-term deal to Mercado-Valdes without going through the bidding process. Since Mercado-Valdes has given up the rights to the show, the early results look good for The Heritage Networks, but there are no guarantees. “The only risk is that there’s a possibility I could create this value and they could sell it to somebody else for a higher bid,” says Mercado-Valdes. “But, hey, that’s capitalism.”

If Sutton can’t persuade the foundation to award the contract to Inner City/Western International, he will still have Showtime in Harlem. Inner City/Western International also owns the rights to 355 episodes of the first 15 years of It’s Showtime at the Apollo. In a shocker, Lancey revealed that he and Sutton plan to sell 22 episodes into syndication as a new show slated for September 2003. Dubbed The Best Of It’s Showtime at the Apollo, Lancey says the series would have launched even if Inner City/Western International had been awarded the contract. They plan to run the series right after Showtime in Harlem in a two-hour block they hope to create with stations. “The Best of It’s Showtime at the Apollo is something we’ve always planned to do,” says Lancey. “We’ve spent $80 million on [the show] over the years, so this provides us an avenue to get some of that back.”

It also sets the stage for a possible lawsuit over who truly owns the right to use the Showtime at the Apollo trademark. While neither side has tipped its hand, this fight seems destined for a few rounds in court. “You build a show for 15 years, and after 13 years you finally make money, and then it’s taken from you,” says

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