Showdown At The Apollo

This season is an audition, of sorts, for The Heritage Networks before negotiations for a possible long-term deal begin in February. At that time, the foundation will have worked with both Inner City/Western International and Heritage Networks/de Passe Entertainment, and will be clear on which team has broader appeal.

While Inner City/Western International didn’t win the one-year contract to produce the show, Lancey is confident he can make a strong case to win a long-term contract when discussions take place next month. “The advertisers liked the show we were doing, and the brand was important, but that’s not the only thing they were buying,” Lancey says, pointing out that Inner City/ Western International’s 15 years of producing a successful show was comforting to advertisers when he and Sutton decided to launch Showtime in Harlem in late September. Lancey says Showtime in Harlem, which will cost about $4.5 million to produce and distribute, airs on 114 stations nationally and has retained a similar advertising base and station lineup as the previous Apollo show. He also says the new show will generate similar ad revenue and ratings as the show they produced last year. “Sure, the advertisers care about the Apollo Theater, but when they advertise, what they really care about is servicing their consumers. So they’re more concerned about the ratings and demographics,” he says. “Right now advertisers are wondering what the ratings and demographics will be for the new Showtime at the Apollo.”

Mercado-Valdes dismisses Lancey’s suggestion that advertisers will be wary of his revamped Showtime at the Apollo. He says the show has kept many big advertisers with family-oriented consumer products, including Sears, McDonald’s, Toyota, and Coca-Cola. He also claims to have picked up new advertisers
for the show, including Fannie Mae, one of the nation’s largest home mortgage lenders, and Wal-Mart. “One of the big values of this deal is that we have many advertisers that have been supportive of the show for so many years. It was an easy sell,” he says.

Mercado-Valdes isn’t even worried about conflicts arising as a result of the similarity of the names and formats of the two shows. “I wouldn’t have done the deal if confusion among advertisers would have been a problem.”

Kim Price, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, says the beverage maker has maintained advertising with Showtime at the Apollo but has not advertised with Showtime in Harlem. “Showtime in Harlem is so new that it was not in Coke’s 2002 advertising plan,” explains Price, who doesn’t rule out future advertising with Showtime in Harlem. “The timing of when the show airs is not as important as the audience we’re trying to reach,” she says.

The new Showtime at the Apollo appears on 110 stations nationally, says Mercado-Valdes. To upgrade the program, de Passe has expanded the format to include white and Latino performers with urban appeal, such as Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. Other changes from the old show include Mo’ Nique, star of UPN’s The Parkers, serving as hostess; an on-stage applaud meter