NBC is taking new ABC singing competition Rising Star very seriously, using heavy artillery against the debut of the new reality series this weekend. NBC has slotted an original of its strongest summer series, veteran America’s Got Talent, which airs Tuesdays, directly opposite the two-hour premiere of Rising Star from 9-11 PM on Sunday. But the Peacock didn’t stop here: NBC just announced a special daredevil stunt throughout Sunday night, which is being billed as “Show-Stopping Sunday.”
Both stunts, hosted by AGT judge Howie Mandel, will aim at breaking Guinness world records — for fastest jump over three moving cars and the highest shallow dive into fire. They will be chronicled in the form of interstitials that will air during American Ninja Warrior, which airs from 7-9 PM and AGT from 9-11 PM. Such stunting is vintage Jeff Bader. One of his first moves after jumping from ABC to NBC to head scheduling in 2012 was to add a third, Wednesday installment of The Voice‘s premiere week to go head-to-head against the hyped Season 2 premiere of Fox’s The X Factor that introduced new judge Britney Spears. The stunt didn’t go very well with X Factor boss Simon Cowell, who called it “a cynical, cold-hearted, unprofessional way of doing business.” But it worked in taking sizzle away from the X Factor debut.
The all-out counterprogramming assault by NBC has got to be adding to the level of anxiety of ABC executives who have a lot riding on Rising Star. The network put a lot of marketing muscle behind the show, which is the highest-profile and most ambitious new talent competition reality series to enter the space since The Voice. It is also by far the most technologically complex and susceptible to glitches, with live voting on both coasts and a new voting app that has not been tested on a real live broadcast (ABC and producers tested the systems during the Bachelorette telecast on Monday). Still, the lengths to which NBC is going to counter the Rising Star premiere has got to be a little flattering, indicating that the newcomer is considered a real threat.
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