Thursday, October 07, 2010

Death of a Telethon: MDA's announcement does not mention Jerry Lewis

The Muscular Dystrophy Association announced plans to turn the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon into a six-hour primetime special on its Quest magazine website. The article made no mention of host Jerry Lewis, and ran with a photo of telethon subhost Jann Carl:

MDA Labor Day Telethon
Moves to Shorter Format

by Quest Staff

The 2011 MDA Telethon will run for six hours during prime-time viewing hours, in a bid to increase both audience and donations

Sometimes, less is more — and that’s the strategy behind MDA’s decision to shave off more than 15 hours from next year’s Labor Day Telethon broadcast.

The new six-hour Telethon will run during the prime-time viewing hours of 6 p.m. to midnight (Eastern time) on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and will include the same time-tested mix of top entertainment, profiles of individuals and families with neuromuscular diseases, check presentations by MDA sponsors and live local segments.

The shorter format could well attract more television stations into MDA’s “Love Network,” as it’s easier for stations to clear six broadcast hours for Telethon programming than to clear nearly two days. It’s hoped that the combination of new format and prime-time Sunday viewing slot will result in larger audiences and more income for MDA’s research and services programs.

MDA has presented a 21½-hour Telethon over Labor Day weekend for 45 years.

“Ever since pioneering the Telethon as a fundraising, education and sponsor-recognition program, MDA has enjoyed unparalleled support from television and cable stations across America,” said Gerald C. Weinberg, MDA president & CEO and Telethon executive producer. “Our ‘Love Network’ of some 170 stations annually helps us reach an audience of some 40 million Americans. The stations’ efforts, and those of our national, regional and local sponsors, have been truly outstanding.”

Weinberg noted that MDA has been considering reducing the length of the Telethon broadcast for several years. Feedback from the 2010 show underscored the benefits of an extended prime-time show, he said.

“There’s nothing like our Telethon,” said Lee Miller, longtime Telethon producer. “In 2010, some 65 top acts performed, including some amazing production numbers by Tyce Diorio of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ as well as top Broadway and Las Vegas show segments. Our 2011 prime-time focus should make it easier to fill every moment of the show with the best headline entertainment.”

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