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MTV offers VMA viewers a virtual backstage pass

From the Associated Press

For fans who want to see more of Beyonce or Ludacris at next week’s Video Music Awards, MTV is offering a trip backstage at Radio City Music Hall.

Not physically, of course. That would get way too crowded. The network is putting on a broadband program to run concurrently with the VMAs on Aug. 31 and giving people at home a taste of what is happening beyond the reach of the TV station’s cameras.

The programming experiment is a milestone for MTV as it heads into its 26th year with the goal of expanding into as many media realms as possible, and one for television in general as it explores the limits of multimedia.

“What does Beyonce do before she goes onstage?” said Christina Norman, MTV’s president. “Does she pray? Does she cry? Does she check her make-up?”

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Whatever it is, it won’t be private (with limits, of course).

Before its test runs over the last few months with “Total Request Live,” MTV believes no other network has tried airing simultaneous, competing shows on the same event on different platforms, said Dave Sirulnick, MTV executive vice president.

He compared it to 1990, when MTV pioneered the idea of presenting a pre-show before the VMAs. Now the pre-show is a staple for all big awards shows, and Sirulnick is convinced this broadband step is no less significant.

“At the heart of it is, it gives the viewer the experience of being there,” he said.

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The backstage show will be presented on MTV Overdrive, which last year offered users backstage snippets and highlights of the TV show on demand after the ceremony was over.

MTV tried out the technology during visits by Jamie Foxx, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson to “TRL” recently. Foxx entertained the studio audience with jokes and songs during TV commercial breaks, which were shown on Overdrive. Aguilera guided a dressing room tour, showing off her wardrobe to the online audience, while Simpson let folks listen in on calls she made to her friends.

Those are the sort of things planned for the VMAs. Overdrive will peek into the backstage press room, show celebrities hanging out and perhaps follow a star from the dressing room to the stage, as it did Kelly Clarkson last year.

Overdrive users will also be able to download highlights of the television and online shows about half an hour after they air live, Sirulnick said.

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The obvious risk is that Overdrive will poach part of MTV’s audience for the awards, which advertisers would frown upon. But MTV thinks that a significant portion of its audience, particularly for an event such as the VMAs, is online at the same time it is watching TV.


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