NFL REVERSES PLANS ON LIVE MUSICAL CONCERT

Will Take 'Total Control' of Season-Opening TV Special

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- The National Football League has reconsidered its decision to cancel the concert portion of its opening-game event next month and will again have musical acts to help start the season. But the league has taken total control of the show in the wake of the Janet Jackson fiasco during the halftime show of February's Super Bowl.

Marketing venture
The 2-year-old NFL Kickoff Live is a

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marketing venture in which the season-opening game each September is played not on Sunday but on a Thursday night and is preceded by a concert.

The 2004 NFL season opens Sept. 9 with a game between the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Prior to the game, a one-hour special, NFL Opening Kickoff, will air from 8-9 p.m. on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, featuring live musical acts from Foxboro and Jacksonville, Fla., site of next year's Super Bowl.

Halftime embarrassment
The decision is a turnaround from the league's position in March. Reeling from the embarrassment of having Ms. Jackson's breast shown on national TV at the end of her performance, the league canceled the concert portion of its Kickoff Live event. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told owners at a meeting that "I'm the commissioner of football, not the commissioner of music."

Viacom's MTV produced the Super Bowl's halftime show.

'Total control'
"We found that [music] could fit in under new procedures and processes," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "We've changed how we manage all aspects of entertainment. If you look at before and after, we in essence gave the keys to the car to MTV and they crashed it. This time around, we're exercising total control over all aspects of the entertainment portion of the show.

"We will have final approval over all aspects, from songs to wardrobe to staging and choreography," he said.

Musical acts
Scheduled to appear on NFL Opening Kickoff are Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, Elton John, Toby Keith and Lenny Kravitz live from Foxboro, and Jessica Simpson live from Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville.

NFL Opening Kickoff will be produced by New York-based White Cherry Entertainment, headed by Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner, son of legendary rock producer Don Kirshner. White Cherry most recently produced the Democratic National Convention in Boston and has previously done live events such as the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Tony Awards, the Daytime Emmy Awards and the "Broadway on Broadway" concert event that took place in New York's Times Square following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Mum on Super Bowl plans
NFL executives would not comment on what is happening with the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show, but executives close to the situation said White Cherry will not be involved. The bidding process for that event is down to five groups, including Dick Clark Entertainment, Anschutz Entertainment Group and Clear Channel Entertainment. The two other groups are unknown. Jack Morton Worldwide, producer of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Athens Olympics, has been eliminated from the bid process, executives said.

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