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'Big Shot' Has Big Local Plans

Madison Road Entertainment and Maverick Television are partnering with CBS Television Distribution for promotion and distribution of the upcoming Big Shot online talent contest.

The project will allow anyone to upload video to compete in one of seven daily talent categories, such as acting, singing and filmmaking. Daily online polls will determine which performers in each category will be whisked off for an audition in front of Hollywood dealmakers.

Big Shot is centered around a five-minute daily Web show (B&C, May 7, 2007), which will be available on the Websites of CBS stations that carry Entertainment Tonight as part of the deal. It runs for 13 weeks beginning January 7, 2008.

ET's weekend edition will also back Big Shot with a weekly segment that will highlight how celebrities got their first break. The show will drive viewers to participate in the contest via its Website, local station sites or

“How many people who watch ET are people who want to be stars themselves?” says John Nogawski, president/COO of CBS Television Distribution. “We think it's a perfect marriage there.”

Nogawski says CBSTD wants to use the project to experiment with ways to get young viewers from the Web to Entertainment Tonight and back again.

“I started off thinking of how it could blend with who we are and the constant frustration of [whether] there younger viewers not finding their way back to traditional television?” Nogawski says. “We are also going to learn a lot about our show and the Internet and see how our show combines with that big platform—and hopefully we can scratch a couple nickels together along the way.”

The deal also calls for distribution of Big Shot online via the CBS Audience Network, or “Rolling Thunder,” as it is called internally.

That online initiative helps CBS syndicate content to partners including AOL, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Yahoo.

“The CBS Audience Network gives us a massive footprint,” says Madison Road's managing partner Jak Severson. “We don't care where people hit it from, we want them to go to wherever they like to see content and have that experience there.”

Each station site will have its own unique Big Shot URL and an individualized local appearance, which are being created by Fan Rocket, an online outfit with offices in New York and Los Angeles.

Stations get a prominently placed window on the site to sell, but Severson says the real value is in the younger audiences Big Shot could move back and forth between the local station Websites and TV. Affiliates have the rights to footage if a local contestant make it to Hollywood.

“The promise of the project is that we are relying on the old TV model to grow a new audience, which will draw younger viewers back to the TV stations they had left, and to be able to direct this audience into an online experience from the television,” Severson says.

“If somebody at home realizes with just enough votes they can be on a plane and getting their first opportunity to participate in the entertainment world, they will reach out to anyone they know and ask for these votes,” Severson says. “These days with the online world producing hundreds of friends for the typical online user, we think this will be a fairly rich experience.”

The showrunner for Big Shot is James Bruce, whose production credits include The Apprentice. Talent will include comedians Todd Glass, Eddie Pepitone and Brian Huskey.

Madison Road will package ad deals for the first cycle, including in-show integrations.

For instance, a winner could get to audition to appear in a commercial for a product that has bought its way into the show.

Among those already on board is celebrity news magazine US Weekly.