Death of a Musical Prince Prompts Networks to Let the Tributes Rain

The death of music icon (and so much more) Prince on Thursday (April 21) prompted MTV — home to many of the artist’s greatest multimedia moments, including Video Music Awards performances — to turn its multistage, music-themed upfront presentation purple in one of many live cable tributes.

Viacom Music and Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog opened the presentation, already highly anticipated due to MTV’s decision under new president Sean Atkins to return to its music roots. Herzog recalled a conversation he and other MTV executives had with Prince in 1993, at the height of the artist’s music-rights battle with his record label, Warner Bros., which led to Prince changing his name and brand to an unpronounceable symbol.

When asked by MTV executives what they should call him, the artist simply said, “Call me whatever I am.”

Said Herzog: “Even though we’re still processing the news and remembering the enormity of his legacy, I think it’s clear to remember what he was: a once-in-a-lifetime artist whose music touched all of us and will be missed dearly by everyone around the world.”

On air, MTV turned its logo purple Thursday night to honor the late musical prince, and aired his videos throughout the night.

Other networks that tore up their primetime lineups and aired live specials included TV One, where Roland Martin interviewed Aretha Franklin, Cedric the Entertainer and Earth, Wind & Fire singer Phillip Bailey, among others. MTV sister network BET ventured into Times Square for a live special hosted by president of programming Stephen Hill, part of a 48-hour music marathon across BET, Centric, BET Jams and BET Soul. “Icon. Legend. Innovator. Friend. His legacy of brilliance and creativity will forever live on,” BET said. “We will remember him and miss him dearly.”

Extending into the weekend, Prince-ly programming could be found on AXS TV, Fuse, VH1 and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, which aired an Oprah interview with the artist from 1996.

‘Cat-letes’ of the World Gather for ‘Kitten Summer Games’

Hallmark Channel last week taped the “Kitten Summer Games” in a New York studio. The Wire dropped by to see some of the shenanigans: tiny cats “wrestling” a feather toy dangled above a boxing ring; climbing the “stands” in an “arena” where host Beth Stern sat, an orange kitten wriggling in her lap.

Like the annual “Kitten Bowl,” the games will be a counter-programming (guess the opposing event) special that airs on Friday, Aug. 5. All 90 or so “cat-letes” are available for adoption from North Shore Animal League America and Last Hope Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation.

Stern — who has fostered some 235 rescue cats at home over the years, including ones with special needs — told The Wire, “Last year alone we were responsible for over 1,000 loving homes for cats and kittens nationwide, and I know the numbers are going to grow, and I’m so proud to be a part of what Hallmark Channel is doing.”

Shelter partners hold adoption events pegged to “Pet Project” events, which also include the “Paw Star Game.”

— Kent Gibbons

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.