Magazine article Variety

A 'Battle' the World Can SING ABOUT

Magazine article Variety

A 'Battle' the World Can SING ABOUT

Article excerpt

Who could have predicted that the world's next great TV format would be tossed off in a late-night talk show segment?

In a May 2013 airing of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," the host stepped to the mic to face off against guest John Krasinski, fresh off his stint on "The Office." The competition: lip syncing. Fallon opened with Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud"; Krasinski responded with Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream." And a format (eventually) was born.

Now, with new hit entertainment shows thin on the ground at TV markets, Viacom's "Lip Sync Battle" is proving that simplicity can pay dividends.

"Over the last 20 years, I've been involved in selling a lot of formats, but shows that skyrocket like 'Lip Sync Battle' don't come along that often," says Caroline Beaton, Viacom's VP of international programming sales.

Beaton launched the show at Mip last year, closing several deals including a multi-territory contract with Zodiak, mostly for European versions.

"Nine territories across [four] continents have now licensed the format," Beaton says. These include Canada, Norway, China, Poland, the Philippines and across Africa, where the show is produced in Johannesburg. In the U.K., "Lip Sync Battle" bowed on Viacom-owned Channel 5 in January, where it competes on an even level with "Celebrity Big Brother," averaging around 2 million viewers.

Viacom is looking to close more deals around the Mip TV confab, which runs April 4-7 in Cannes.

"'Lip Sync Battle' is a very uncomplicated show. It doesn't set out to do anything but entertain," says executive producer Casey Patterson.

The format sees two celebrities compete against each other, each lip-syncing a favorite song - usually with elaborate costumes and choreography - in front of a live audience. Audience reaction decides who walks away the winner. "It's the antithesis of shows like 'The X Factor' and The Voice,'" says Beaton."'Lip Sync' kind of debunks the traditional view of stardom, and allows [them] to perform a song like they're singing and dancing along at home with the radio on. Viewers respond to seeing celebrities performing against type."

It's also good for stars' personal branding. "In an online world, fans expect to have a different kind of access to celebrities, and this show gives them that," says Patterson, who helped develop the format which has become a genuine pop-culture phenomenon in the U. …

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