With the deal, Burnett has come full circle, once again teaming with the network that first put him on the map with the Summer 2000 premiere of Survivor, the cultural phenomenon that is widely credited with ushering in the modern era of reality television. In the interim Burnett became the most successful and sought-after reality producer in the industry, having wrangled unscripted development deals with NBC, FOX, and The WB, broken into the scripted sitcom and drama business with The WB, and become credited with pretty much single-handedly saving NBC's "Must See TV" Thursday night lineup with last season's premiere of The Apprentice.
The new show, operating under the tentative name of Rock Star, will combine the world of rock music with relationship-style unscripted drama, performance competition and a weekly contestant elimination -- which will be determined by a combination of viewer participation, judges and INXS band members.
The last singer standing will become the lead singer of the internationally renowned band INXS, and will embark on a worldwide concert tour with the band and be part of the group's new album. Casting for the new series will be a multi-continent search with auditions being planned in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as Sydney, London and Tokyo. Those that make the casting cut will be housed together in a Hollywood Hills home.
Explained Burnett in the announcement, "INXS is one of the world's premiere rock bands and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone. Rock stars offer rich material for the reality TV world. They are colorful personalities and charismatic performers who make great reality TV characters. Add to that a global format, elimination-style competition and the enormous stakes of becoming the lead singer in a successful group, and you have a unique environment for compelling unscripted drama."
The series will air in Summer 2005 over a thirteen week period that will feature two hours of programming a week, the exact breakdown of which is still to be determined. Each week's two hours of broadcasts will feature a combination of taped reality segments focusing on the relationships and conflicts that develop between the competitors, a live performance competition and the weekly results. Casting call details will be announced at a later date.
According to Daily Variety, ABC, desperate to rebound from several years of fourth place network ratings finishes, also bid heavily on the program, only to lose out to CBS due to better cross-marketing opportunities offered by CBS corporate parent Viacom, who also owns cable networks MTV, VH1, and the Infinity Radio radio network.
"Iím thrilled to be back in business with Leslie [Mooves], Nancy [Tellem] and the CBS team that helped create such a huge success with Survivor." said Burnett. "In addition to being the most watched Network, CBS is home to the Grammys, and its parent company, Viacom, has the industryís preeminent assets in radio and music oriented cable channels. I believe this exciting programming concept has boundless potential for success here."
"This series will be complete with Mark Burnett's signature style of visiting a world that has great characters, interesting relationships and unscripted drama," said Nancy Tellem, President, CBS Entertainment. "We can't think of a better formula for success in the summer than Mark Burnett, rock music and a competition style reality show."
Continued Tellem, "It is also a program that fits with CBSís philosophy to target and nurture reality shows that have franchise potential that can play a meaningful long-term role on our schedule. We think Mark and his team have developed a concept that will generate excitement worldwide, will appeal to a broad audience here in the States -- and has tremendous synergistic potential with other Viacom platforms to create a huge television event in the Summer of '05."
The failure to land Rock Star marks ABC's fourth known failure to land a Burnett series. During a recent New York Times interview regarding his difficulties in getting a network to pick up the then revolutionary Survivor, Burnett recounted how ABC passed on not one but three chances to land Survivor before he eventually moved on to strike a deal with CBS. Similarly, due to some previous discussions between Donald Trump and ABC concerning the possibility of Trump doing an Osbournes-like reality show, Burnett gave ABC first dibs on his The Apprentice series in 2003, only to see the show eventually land at NBC due to what Burnett termed "bogged down" negotiations with ABC. ABC also competed in this past spring's heated bidding war for Burnett's new upcoming The Contender series, but once again saw its offer finish a distant fourth behind those of winner NBC, FOX, and CBS. NBC's deal for The Contender set sales records for a first-season reality show, with NBC agreeing to pay over $2,000,000 an episode for the show and also agreeing to an advertising barter deal in which Burnett will be able to purchase and resell six ad spots per episode from the network.
According to Variety, Burnett's Rock star deal with CBS similarly includes an advertising sales component, but given that the series will air during the summer viewing season which features lower viewership levels, it is believed that the series' sale price did not match that of The Contender. Neither CBS or Burnett would comment on the financial details of the deal.
INXS was formed in the late '70s in Sydney, Australia and has sold in excess of 30 million albums. INXS has had seven top 10 hits in the United States including "What You Need," "Never Tear Us Apart" and "Need You Tonight." The band's lead singer, Michael Hutchence, died in 1997.
In 1999, with guest vocalist Terence Trent D'Arby, they returned to the concert stage before 90,000 fans and a vast television audience to officially open Sydney's Olympic Stadium. With guest vocalist Jon Stevens, INXS performed at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in September 2000, which was broadcast to a television audience of several billion people.
By the middle of 2002 INXS returned to the international concert arena with the band playing in South, Central and North America on a full-scale tour. Shows throughout Europe followed as well as multiple trips to Latin American, which included headlining the huge Vina Del Mar Festival in Chile in 2003, broadcast to a global audience of 180 million.