Pop diva Katy Perry has landed the halftime show gig at Super Bowl XLIX in February. Not a huge surprise: She and Rihanna had been considered the frontrunners for the February 1 show, and when Rihanna got into a brawl over the use of a tune she’d sung for the NFL’s Thursday game openers, it was widely assumed that relationship has soured.
Not coincidentally, Perry appeared on ESPN’s College Game Day this past Saturday and announced, “I’m not the kind of girl who would pay to play the Super Bowl.” This year’s halftime show became a controversial gig when word got out the NFL was talking to reps of prospective acts about having them cover the expense of the production — a bill traditionally footed by the league. When a couple of the league’s suggestions as to how a music act might help offset halftime production costs were written up in the Wall Street Journal under the headline “NFL to Coldplay: Pay to Play the Super Bowl,” the reaction in the entertainment industry was stupendous, generating the kind of outrage the halftime show hadn’t seen since Janet Jackson debuted her right breast in 2004, giving Washington the vapors.
While the industry wondered if the finalists would hesitate this year rather than get tangled in the press’ pay-to-play storyline, Rihanna seemed to become the odds-on fave: “I’m sure they’re going after Rihanna, [but] she’s not going to give in so quickly — she’s got no trouble selling tickets,” one hopeful music-industry exec told Deadline in early September.
But later last month, Rihanna got Roc Nation to revoke CBS’ license to use her version of the Jay-Z tune “Run This Town” for its Thursday Night Football package. Roc Nation claimed the network was guilty of “misuse and misrepresentation of Rihanna’s name and participation in connection to the Thursday football package,” among other offenses it cited, prompting CBS to announce it was dumping the tune for the NFL Thursday football opener. CBS produces both its Thursday games and those that will be telecast on NFL’s network.
CBS Sports offended Rihanna when it decided not to use the song for its debut of TNF, which was to have been accompanied by Don Cheadle narrating. That game featured the Steelers and the Ravens, whose star running back Ray Rice was cut days earlier after TMZ released the elevator video in which he clocked his now-wife. CBS said at the time it was cutting the originally planned opening package, including the tune, to make room for news updates on the Rice/NFL situation, which seemed appropriate given that the Ravens were playing that night. Additionally, before CBS’ announcement, the media had been engaged in chest thumping over the appropriateness of starting that particular game with a Rihanna-sung tune, given that she is one of the best known celebrity survivors of domestic violence.
The move knotted Rihanna’s knickers to no small degree:
And with that, Perry gets the Super Bowl halftime show — a more-than-moderately watched event, as evidenced by the record 115.3 million viewers who tuned in for last season’s Big Show starring Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers, according to Nielsen. (The game itself averaged 112 million, becoming the most watched TV show in U.S. history.) NBC will air the game two weeks before Perry embarks on the European leg of her world tour. After which we’ll watch to see if she books her next U.S. tour at NFL stadiums stateside instead of the usual, smaller venues favored by touring pop artists these days. That had been one of the NFL’s suggestions back when it was taking to possible halftime performers about ways to help the league recoup the show’s considerable price tag.
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