Sources: NBC's Live 'Sound of Music' Cost Close to $9 Million

The Sound of Music Live Carrie Underwood - H 2013

The Sound of Music Live Carrie Underwood - H 2013

The broadcast starring Carrie Underwood will likely lose money in its first airing, but the network and chairman Robert Greenblatt are betting on at least one repeat, as well as revenue from the soundtrack and DVD.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

NBC's live three-hour production of The Sound of Music on Dec. 5 isn't just an interesting creative gamble. The network and chairman Robert Greenblatt are taking some financial risks, too. Sources peg the price tag of the one-night extravaganza starring Carrie Underwood and True Blood's Stephen Moyer at as much as $9 million, though NBC won't comment on the cost. At that rate, the initial broadcast almost certainly would lose money, even with Wal-Mart recruited as the exclusive sponsor. But Greenblatt is playing the long game with the adaptation of the Sound of Music Broadway play (not the Oscar-winning 1965 movie).

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The Universal TV production will air at least one additional time before Christmas, and if it's a hit, Music could become a holiday season perennial for the network. (Annual airings of CBS' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and ABC's A Charlie Brown Christmas are "a gold mine," notes one executive.) In addition, NBC will market a DVD version of Music in time for holiday gift-giving as well as a soundtrack album featuring recordings by Underwood. Producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan say Greenblatt has been intimately involved in all aspects.

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"This project hits Bob's sweet spot because he is a passionate devotee of theater," says Zadan. So much so that Greenblatt is thought of as "one of our collaborators," he adds. Meron and Zadan, who also produced NBC's Smash, say they run even production design decisions by Greenblatt, whom Zadan calls "our guardian angel throughout the whole process."