Cable Benefit Concerts Rocked

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Two cable concert telecasts to aid recovery efforts from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks drew record-breaking Nielsen Media Research ratings for Viacom Inc.'s VH1 and CMT: Country Music Television.

VH1's Oct. 20 The Concert for New York City
averaged a 3.7 household rating, an all-time ratings record for the network. It was so hot, VH1 may change its tune about showing it again.

CMT's The Country Freedom Concert
on Oct. 21, notched a network-best 2.13 household rating.

The nearly six-hour The Concert for New York City, held at Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Madison Square Garden, also drew a network high 3.2 rating among persons 18 to 49, according to Nielsen data. Overall, the concert led VH1 to the highest total-day mark in its history.

The commercial-free concert — proceeds from which are earmarked for the Robin Hood Relief Fund to meet the needs of victims of the World Trade Center attacks — garnered 5 million total viewers and 3 million households. Nearly 16 million viewers watched some portion of the show, according to the network.

VH1 executive vice president of programming and production Fred Graver credited a collaborative effort. Along with VH1, Cablevision, Miramax Films and AOL Time Warner Inc. partnered on the event.

"We were very lucky to be a part of this and we're proud to have participated," Graver said.

After initially saying it would not rebroadcast the concert, Graver said the network is now "debating" whether to air the event in its entirety.

CBS late last week announced it would cull highlights from the event as part of a one-hour special on Oct. 31.

"Our message boards are loaded with requests for us to show it again, and there is some artist sentiment to re-air it," Graver said. "Right now we're debating."

VH1 will make the concert available on DVD and videocassette in mid-November. The network will also release a music CD for the Robin Hood Relief Fund.

VH1 also teamed with eBay Inc. to auction off gear and memorabilia from the concert to help benefit the fund. The auction, slated for Oct. 30, will feature such items as Bon Jovi's drum set, Elton John's grand piano, autographed Fender, Alvarez and Gibson guitars and posters.

The Concert for New York City
featured performances by Paul McCartney; The Who; Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; David Bowie; Elton John; Eric Clapton; Billy Joel; James Taylor; Destiny's Child; and John Mellencamp, among others.

A record 6 million viewers tuned in for the live premiere of CMT's The Country Freedom Concert
on Oct. 21.

Much like the VH1 show, CMT's concert coverage delivered record household ratings and helped push the network into basic cable's No. 1 slot in primetime for that night among viewers 18 to 49.

The telethon featured performances by George Strait, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Vince Gill, Lonestar, Lee Ann Womack, Clint Black, Trisha Yearwood, Hank Williams Jr., Sara Evans, Keith Urban, Diamond Rio and Montgomery Gentry. It helped raise $ 5.1 million for The Salvation Army Disaster Relief Fund.

"Country had a moment of amazing convergence — a stunning array of talent, top-level concert and TV production crews, and blanket coverage on more than 700 radio stations and the Internet worldwide," CMT senior vice president and general manager Brian Philips said in a statement. "The Salvation Army Disaster Relief Fund deserved all this and more."

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