Dick Clark Productions Is Dramatically Increasing Its Output

A chat with Allen Shapiro and Mike Mahan

This year, dick clark productions will present some 100 televised musical performances, most of them live and in prime time. Roughly double 2013’s count, that tally includes regulars such as the American Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards and signature Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve, and newcomers such as the Hollywood Film Awards on CBS, the People Magazine Awards on NBC and the U.S. version of Israeli singing competition Rising Star on ABC. Adweek spoke with Allen Shapiro, CEO of dcp, and company president Mike Mahan, about sponsors, social media and the live TV revival. (Disclosure: dick clark productions and Adweek are owned by affiliates of Guggenheim Partners.) 

Adweek: Who are your key sponsors, historically, and your new sponsors this year?

Mahan: On the American Music Awards we’ve had multiyear sponsorships with Chrysler, Samsung and Coca-Cola, and Kohl’s has now come in both on the AMAs and the [Academy of Country Music Awards] this year. [For the] Billboard [Music Awards] last year we had Chevy, and they’ll be back with us again this year.

Shapiro: Ram Truck and ConAgra are with us on the ACMs. Last year we had just acquired the Hollywood Film Awards, and we weren’t on television yet. We will be on CBS this year, and both Samsung and Dodge were very helpful with us to produce our first show, even though it wasn’t on television yet.

Mahan: For the ACMs, Dr Pepper has also been a longtime sponsor

How has social buzz around these shows changed what advertisers are looking for?

Mahan: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sponsors. Some like Coca-Cola will really want to live in the digital and on-site platform and create a unique digital show that features their brand. The essence of that relationship is we create a pre-show that airs exclusively online and is distributed with our digital partners, and Coca-Cola is heavily integrated within that show. We have a very close collaboration with them.

You’ll have companies like Samsung that want to participate at every level, but really want to focus on platforms like Twitter and help drive not only impressions for their own brand, but at the time, a Nielsen record for Twitter traffic at 7.6 million tweets [around the 2013 AMAs], which was about three times what it was the year before. Brands not only want to live on television, they want to live in multiple platforms, whether it’s radio, print, digital, on-site. They want to be everywhere.

How’d you help Samsung tie into the 7.6 million tweets and work to drive that volume?

Mahan: We have an in-house digital team led by Ariel Elazar, who’s a star who’s built out a pioneering team. They’re very progressive when it comes to creating digital content and expansion for these shows. It serves the purpose of both promoting these shows and extending the reach for our sponsors, and that dual purpose has been a large contributing factor to a) why the TV ratings have grown, and b) why we have very satisfied sponsors that come back year after year.

The 2013 AMAs, ACMs and BMAs all enjoyed recent highs in viewership. How have you driven ratings growth?

Mahan: Compelling talent, stronger production values … and we’ve taken a very aggressive approach about marketing our own shows across multiple platforms. The most recent shows that we’ve had—where they’ve achieved recent highs in ratings—have been the most heavily promoted shows. By providing exclusive access, whether it’s digital mirrors for Twitter or backstage interviews for Music Choice or the real estate for Cumulus to do a red carpet show, our platform has natural extensions to create content. By working with all our partners, they’re able to create unique experiences and content for their audience. And that serves to promote our shows.

Shapiro: And we specifically target [our] marketing effort toward audiences we think are appropriate for the show, maybe underserved by the networks themselves. If we have a show that has Latin appeal, we’ll go to Spanish-speaking radio or Spanish-speaking TV and have media time. If we think African Americans will be interested, there’s both African-American radio and TV networks.

How has social changed the way you produce the shows?

Mahan: Five years ago you wouldn’t have seen hashtags and @ symbols—you see those kind of callouts in these broadcasts. People want to watch these shows. They want to talk about them. They want to experience them across multiple platforms. They want to interact and engage.

Shapiro: Rising Star involves an app, participation, auditions for the show—all across social media lines. The entire show has been somewhat centered around social media. That’s changing the landscape, we believe.

Mike, you’re also on the jury for the inaugural Clio Music Awards this year (also owned by Guggenheim). How’s that going?

Mahan: I’ve got my jury summons, but I haven’t showed up for court yet [laughs].

How is ad growth tracking to ratings? Is it outpacing audiences because of the added value of more channels?

Shapiro: The place where ratings are increasing the most is in live television whether they’re sports or events like ours, so I think the increase in ad rates to some degree … is being driven by the kinds of shows we do. It’s the most compelling area of television today. I also think that sponsors today are interested in more than just the media time. They’re interested in the live events around our shows, whether it’s parties, events, Dr Pepper having their bottlers there—it’s that’s kind of an experiential thing that is so important to sponsors. So I do think the value of that is growing, because these are unique events that are impossible to duplicate and that sponsors want to be associated with. The revenues for those are increasing without question.


@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.