'Rising Star's' Time Travel: How ABC Is Airing the Show Live for Most of America

7:00 AM PST 06/18/2014 by Michael O'Connell
ABC

In what may be the last hope for a fatigued genre, the network leans on affiliates, the appeal of live TV and a Tinder-esque app (not its roster of talent) to sell America on another singing competition.

This story first appeared in the June 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

New singing show Rising Star is more than just ABC's best shot at summer success. With The X Factor gone, American Idol now a shell of its former self and even The Voice slowing, the hot Israeli competition format will revitalize or sound the death knell for TV's most lucrative conceit. ABC is going so far as to tweak its traditional programming hours to launch the novel live telecast, which features real-time voting.

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Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. will get Rising Star live when it debuts 9 p.m. EDT June 22. Enthusiasm during a spring affiliate meeting prompted ABC to schedule the two-hour show at the early time of 7 p.m. in Mountain states to prevent tape delay. And though the three-hour time difference means the West Coast's 9 p.m. airing will be long after the rest of the country, producers will cut to live hits from the still-active studio if voting differs enough in the west to spare an eliminated contestant. (Hawaii and Alaska get no concessions.) "Our priority was to figure out how to allow the West Coast to participate in a way that makes them feel like a full partner," says programming executive vp Mark Bracco, whose Dick Clark Productions (a THR sister company) is producing Rising Star per a new joint venture with format owner Keshet. "It's become a very customized campaign."

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Bracco, who left ABC for DCP in April, helped usher the show to the network after its Israeli launch garnered a staggering 49 percent market share. The ABC version will be the first test for new reality chief Lisa Berger, though it is said to also have become a favorite of entertainment president Paul Lee.

ABC execs believe the format is such a lure that, in stark contrast to Voice, Idol and X Factor, Rising Star's expensive talent -- Kesha, Ludacris and Brad Paisley and host Josh Groban -- have been sidelined in most marketing materials in favor of a simple logo and tagline."We have four very well-known names on the show and want to leverage their mass appeal to bring in an audience, but we want viewers to understand that the panel is not there to judge," says ABC marketing strategy senior vp Darren Schillace.

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Crucial to the show's success will be whether U.S. viewers download a companion app that allows real-time voting with the Tinder-esque ease of swiping "yea" or "nay." Early download stats have those involved optimistic, though there's a cautionary tale: The last time a network tried interactivity (NBC's quickly canceled The Million Second Quiz), glitches and errors hijacked the conversation.

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