Give your regards to broadcast: Broadway is going national, with increased television exposure. The new weekly syndicated newsmagazine “Live Broadway USA” will air its pilot some time between May 20 and June 7. Other recent tube highlights: Jay Leno welcomed the cast of “Chicago” last Monday night; David Letterman regularly features numbers from such hits as “The Lion King,” “Rent,” and “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk”; and the casts of eight musicals performed during halftime of the NBA All-Star Game. Next up: The Tonys, hosted by Rosie O’Donnell (June 7 on CBS and PBS). As emcee of last year’s Tony broadcast, O’Donnell helped lift the Nielsen rating to 9.6 (9.4 million viewers), up from 6.8 a year earlier.
Like all TV programming, the decision to give more air time to Broadway comes down to money. Broadway earnings rose to $499 million for the 1996-97 season, a 15% jump from the previous year. Ticket prices, of course, also rose — to $70 or more for a good seat. “Advertisers realize that theater fans are a really good demographic,” says Robert Viagas, managing editor of Playbill On-Line. “A lot of baby-boomers are discovering the theater, and they have the money to afford it.”