MSN, Control Room to Present Another Live 8

Concert News Comes Amid Talk Partnership Isn't Paying Off

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NEW YORK (Adage.com) -- Amid talk that their live internet-concert deal isn't paying off as well as they would like, MSN and Control Room will partner on an event billed as a "Live 8 for the Earth" on July 7, according to a person familiar with the plans.
Bono of U2 performs at Live 8 in 2005.
Bono of U2 performs at Live 8 in 2005. Credit: Gary Calton

'Save Ourselves'
The summer event is to be called "Live Earth" or "Save Ourselves" and there is a rather vague website at SaveOurselves.com, where visitors can submit an e-mail address -- and, curiously, a date of birth -- to be alerted via e-mail when more information is available. According to the site's terms of use, SaveOurselves is operated by Live Earth LLC, an entity that shares a Beverly Hills address with Control Room. The logo attached to SaveOurselves is Morse code for "SOS."

Control Room is a production company that distributes live concerts and other programming through partnerships with several different distribution channels, including cable, radio, internet, mobile and theaters. The company is headed by Kevin Wall, who was the media executive responsible for the summer 2005 Live 8 broadcast, which was trumpeted as the global internet TV experiment of its time, reaching an audience of more than 90 million on Time Warner's AOL. The portal's broadcast was also notable because it was considered superior to that of TV channels such as MTV, VH1 and ABC.

AOL bought the internet-broadcast rights to the event and afterward announced a partnership with XM Satellite Radio and AEG Live to form Network Live, the precursor to Control Room. After only a year -- in fact, during Advertising Week 2006, the last week of September -- Network Live dissolved and Control Room was created, with a deal to distribute concerts on AOL rival MSN.

Hit potential
The July 7 concert has potential to be a hit on the web -- and that's important for what is rumored to be a less-than-fulfilling partnership, at least financially, between MSN and Control Room. According to the person familiar with the deal, MSN has been losing money on the shows because they are expensive to produce, and it hasn't been able to garner a large enough audience for advertising to cover the costs.

To be fair, the deal may have never been inked to make gads of money for the portal; it's also not uncommon for a media property to invest in a high-priced loss leader in order to lure new traffic. (An example would be TV networks signing expensive sports contracts.)

MSN didn't comment on the deal or the concert. An MSN spokeswoman said the partnership has been especially fruitful for MSN's global properties.

Y&R to handle creative
The deal called for about three concerts a month -- and that goal was close to being met in fourth quarter. But there has been only one concert in January and there's only one, a Nas concert, scheduled for February. An MSN spokeswoman said there are also international-only concerts and on-demand concerts that should be included in that total.

More details about the July 7 concert are expected to be announced this week, although blogs are already firing up reports of Al Gore's involvement in the event. Also involved is a nonprofit called Conservation International. Y&R, New York, has been retained to handle creative advertising and promotion for the event on a pro bono basis. The agency referred calls to the client.

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Lisa Sanders contributed to this article.
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