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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Venture to Put Live Shows on Internet and Radio - New York Times

Venture to Put Live Shows on Internet and Radio - New York Times
Venture to Put Live Shows on Internet and Radio

By JEFF LEEDS
In a bid to widen significantly the audience for concerts and live events, America Online and XM Satellite Radio are backing a venture that will deliver live performances to Internet, satellite and wireless customers and through other media.

The venture is expected to start offering its performances this fall. Many of them will originate from arenas and theaters owned by the AEG division of the Anschutz Company, a concert promoter that also holds a stake in the venture. Kevin Wall, executive producer of broadcasts of the multicity Live 8 concert this month calling for aid to Africa, will run the new venture, Network Live.

Mr. Wall, former vice chairman of the Internet services company iXL Enterprises, said AEG was aiming to offer up to 40 concerts from major acts this year and develop its own brand-name series, which could then be distributed or downloaded to an array of devices.

The company plans to generate revenue by licensing its events to various distributors, including AOL and XM, and by selling advertising and corporate sponsorships tied to its concerts, Mr. Wall said.

In addition, sales or fees "directly related" to a specific performance will probably be shared with the artist, said Timothy J. Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG.

The accord creating Network Live comes as distributors of digital entertainment are trying to add programming to attract customers. AOL, for instance, has been developing new content for its revamped service in a race against Yahoo and other rivals. XM has been trying to one-up its smaller rival, Sirius Satellite Radio, by adding new radio talent.

It also arrives as the concert industry, reeling after a slide in attendance last year, is trying to determine how to use the Internet to make more money. Clear Channel, the nation's biggest concert promoter, last week said it planned to shift up to 25 percent of its advertising budget online and that it had struck a deal with Yahoo to alert music fans to coming concerts in their area.

In the past, the notion of attracting mass audiences for concerts online was considered a dubious one. House of Blues Entertainment, another owner of concert arenas, developed plans in the late 1990's to sell pay-per-view Webcasts of its performances, but they drew few viewers, and the company shelved a planned stock offering in 2000 amid the collapse of the dot-com bubble.

This month, however, the Live 8 concerts broke online audience records, AOL said, drawing a peak of 175,000 simultaneous users.

Mr. Leiweke said House of Blues, in retrospect, might have been "a little bit ahead of their time."

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