Two days after Lifetime announced that it had bought a one-hour Whitney Houston special “Remembering Whitney” — and about seven months after Houston’s death — CBS announced it will air a one-hour Houston special, “We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston” during the November sweep.
While Lifetime’s special boasts never before seen family photos and “candid insights” from those same Houston family members who are starring in Lifetime’s new Houston family reality series “The Houstons: On Our Own,” debuting days later, CBS’s Whitney Houston special will feature performances by Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, and Usher, with more names to come.
Put your money on those names belonging to music stars with albums to sell during the holiday season.
CBS’s special is being done with the Recording Academy, which owns the Grammy Awards — and, arguably, the Houston death story, what with her having cashed it in on the eve of the Grammy Awards, while getting ready to attend the Grammy’s biggest annual bash, put on every year by record-industry mogul Clive Davis.
Houston’s death, just hours before the live Grammycast, turned that trophy show into a weep-fest for the dead pop star; nearly 40 million people tuned in to watch the music industry lay its heart at the feet of its fallen heroine — the Grammy’s biggest audience in nearly three decades.
CBS’s newly announced Houston special will also include highlights of her career and never-before-seen footage and interviews, and artists sharing their memories of her.
CBS’s special may look like a throwback to the days when sweeps musical specials were standard – who can forget CBS’s Jackson 5 reunion special that aired during the November ’01 sweep and copped nearly 30 million viewers? But it’s actually part of a trend in which networks trying to hang on to hot trophy shows wind up agreeing to also buy from the academy that owns the trophy show a couple of Shoulder Shows as well. The academy winds up collecting even more cash for owning a hot trophy show, and the network gets to file the expense under TV Special, instead of Trophy Show Stupid Money.
ABC, for instance, is on the hook to air “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” — and did so again earlier this month – as a sort of early reminder to viewers the CMA Awards will take place during the November sweep — and you can catch it on ABC.
That network is also on the hook for a CMA Christmas special. It’s all part of ABC’s 10-year deal to air the Country Music Association’s CMA Awards, signed back in 2011.
CBS, for its part, has aired a Grammy nomination announcement special since 2008, as part of its arrangement to hang on to the Grammy Awards.
Shoulder Shows tend to be cooperative efforts between the network and the academy in question, and scheduled at a time that meets both parties’s needs.
CBS’s new Houston special helps the Recording Academy get into the Xmas album-plugging TV special business.
CBS, in return, gets a November sweep special — though it’s scheduled the Houston tribute on a Friday night, suggesting CBS does not necessarily think this one’s going to be a ratings barn burner.