MSG Media Banks on Venue Connections

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Cablevision Systems-owned MSG Media properties are taking full advantage of the $15 million renovation of Cablevision's Beacon Theatre in New York.

Fuse, for one, has been running content pieces about the building's renovations within the national music network's No. 1 Countdown show.

Footage from the Beacon's reopening event on Feb. 13 — red-carpet shots, interviews and possibly performance footage from headliner Paul Simon — will be packaged for use on Fuse.tv, MSG.com and the BeaconTheatre.com.

MSG Network is producing a one-hour original documentary on the makeover, to premiere in April, and MSG.com will tease the film through clips and a photo gallery.

This deployment of assets is emblematic of how MSG Media plans to create even more content going forward for its collection of linear and digital properties, president Mike Bair said.

“Some companies have the content and distribution pieces, but we're able to combine the venues,” Bair said of the Beacon, Madison Square Garden, the WaMu Theater and Radio City Music Hall.

Promoting them is now Carol Albert's job as senior vice president of MSG Media, after her arrival from the National Basketball Association. She's charged with raising the visibility of the company's brands and guiding strategic marketing initiatives for networks MSG, MSG Plus and Fuse, as well as MSG Interactive.

Rainbow veteran Dan Ronayne last week was announced as general manager of the MSG and MSG Plus channels.

Access to the concert venues is a focal point for Fuse, making a more aggressive push into the music business, Bair said.

“There are more events at these venues, and we have deeper connections than anyone else,” he said. “We want Fuse to celebrate music and artists.”

Expect more behind-scenes footage with performers, more interview segments from the venues and from Fuse studios near the Garden. And more support for the “Fuse Rocks The Garden” franchise, which has featured HD presentations of Foo Fighters and The Cure concerts, as well as Fall Out Boy: Live From Chicago Theatre.

Fuse also is banking on such tentpole events as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and tie-ins with the Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo music festivals, including content for fuse.tv and FuseMobile.

The heightened musical note follows the exit of Fuse chief Eric Sherman, who left at year's end. An internal and external search for candidates is underway, Bair said.

Sherman helped boost Fuse's distribution to 64 million, but didn't score with series experiments including bad-girl reality competition Redemption Song. Fuse, which presents a ton of music videos across different genres, scored a 17% increase in primetime viewers in 2008, albeit to just 49,000, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Its target audience is adults 18 to 34.

Bair said Fuse is considering a cross-generational music performance show along the lines of CMT's Crossroads. “Over the course of the year, we'd like to develop a plan, and build our base toward more original programming for 2010,” he said.

He also expects more concerts and studio-produced documentaries to be part of that scheduling symphony.

“MTV has built an audience with a certain [reality] kind of shows,” he said. “Fuse is going to seek out more music.”

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