On March 16, the 2020 IHeartRadio Music Awards were postponed just two weeks before they were set to air on Fox from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Like virtually all large venues, the Shrine was closed for all events to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by eliminating big crowds.
After the decision to put the awards show on hold, “we kept talking what might be possible to air in its place,” Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier said Monday morning. “The mission was to see if we could do anything that was good at a time when people try to do good in a more meaningful way.”
The result was an hourlong live special, Fox Presents The iHeart Living Room Concert for America, hosted by Elton John and featuring such stars as Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, Tim McGraw, Camila Cabello, Alicia Keys and Backstreet Boys, which aired on the night the IHeartRadio Music Awards were supposed to take part. It is benefiting Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation.
The special had a very quick turnaround. “Ten days ago, the idea was brought that there might be a way to have living room concert,” Collier said, giving credit to the network’s President of Alternative Rob Wade and iHeartRadio’s Entertainment Enterprises President John Sykes.
A TV concert special pulled together in just a few days, featuring A-list performers with no crew around them — something that probably would’ve been considered unthinkable just a month ago, Collier said. “Everything had to be invented and reinvented, and everyone had to be flexible,” he said.
The lineup was fluid until hours before airtime, with new talent coming on board. The special, which aired commercial-free on Fox as well on iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide and via the iHeartRadio app, has already raised more than $8 million for the two charities. It continues to be available on Fox and iHeartRadio’s digital platforms and is streaming for several days on YouTube, so the final tally is expected to be higher.
Leading the list of donors were sponsor Procter & Gamble’s $500,000 contribution, which was matched by Fox. The network also double matched any donation by company employees.
On Fox alone, Living Room Concert for America drew 4.6 million viewers and 1.3 rating in adults 18-49 (preliminary Live+Same Day), tying ABC’s American Idol as the highest-rated broadcast program Sunday night in the demo. (America Idol host Ryan Seacrest was pulling double duty as he also appeared on the Fox special.) UPDATE: In the official fast nationals, the Fox special rose to 5.5 million viewers and a 1.5 18-49 rating, ranking as the No. 1 show of the night in the demo.
The benefit’s success underscores the power of broadcast television as appointment viewing where millions of people can share the same experience at the same time, Collier said.
“When you have this kind of tribute, what broadcast can do best is bring people together,” he said.
Here are clips of two of the performances from last night, the Backstreet Boys singing “I Want It That Way” remotely from each of the quintet’s houses and Camila Cabello + Shawn Mendes.