Live at 9:30 is a modern variety show highlighting the diverse talent that passes through the venue Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines have repeatedly honored as “the best live music club” in the USA. Each episode is a whirlwind of music discovery, featuring performances by hot, new acts and legendary favorites.
Much more than a performance show, the program also features documentary segments that delve into compelling stories about the artists, comedians reflecting on music, and short films commissioned from award-winning documentarians and journalists. Regular contributors include NPR’s Bob Boilen, comedian Hannibal Buress, Bravo’s Jill Kargman, Henry Rollins and special surprise guests.
12 x 60 Minutes
U.S. public television has a proud history of airing incredible live music programs, from In Performance at the White House to Austin City Limits. Designed to bring the coveted 18–35 demographic to public television, Live at 9:30 was put together with help from some of the biggest names in music, including NPR Music (and Bob Boilen), the world famous 9:30 Club, and an unmatched bench of musical, comedic and filmmaking talent. Cinematically filmed and directed with the most high-tech equipment on the market — with some shows being covered by up to 20 cameras, the series was innovative, visually stunning and full of a “who’s who” in popular music and comedy. It’s a modern day variety show, assembled by an all-star cast, and featuring world class talent. Live at 9:30 was designed to capitalize on both the younger viewers drawn to public television shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, as well as the NPR Music audience, and to play well with existing music programs such as Live from the Artist’s Den and Soundstage. While definitely “not your mother’s PBS,” it was also a natural progression in the incredible arts programming the system has made available to loyal viewers and supporters. Consisting mostly of exciting performance footage and a peek behind the curtain at the nation’s best music venue, Live at 9:30 was a modern mix of Later With Jools Holland and Austin City Limits, and promised to be a show unlike any other: energetic, innovative, eclectic and passionate.
This campaign presented multiple challenges.
The first was to launch a new series targeted to what has traditionally been an under served demographic (millennials). While public television content executives often speak of the need to reach out to millennial, no one really knows what to do with such content when it actually is proven idea to them. In addition, the music performance space is a crowded one on public television program grids, with such longstanding series like Austin City Limits, Soundstage, Front Row Center and others commanding the post-primetime schedule slots.
Third, we were faced with extreme time pressures to deliver new episodes on a weekly basis when the episodes were still being edited up to the last few hours (not days) before our satellite uplink deadlines. One or two episodes missed those deadline and needed to be re-fed, wreaking havoc with schedules.
Additionally, we had to spend an enormous amount of time and energy explaining how the public television system worked to one of the project’s stakeholders. And finally, as if all of those challenges were not enough, we had to fight a perception among programmers that the content was too commercial because of its very high production value and slick sponsor pods, led by the primary sponsor, Squarespace.
What we learned from this campaign is that fundamentally, public television is not a destination for millennial viewers, nor is it likely to become one anytime soon, which presents a somewhat existential challenge to public television as a whole. In spite of all of this we succeeded in clearing over 52% of the country, including many major markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
Contact Michael Holstein of the production company The Content Farm for a referral.
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