When Jimmy Fallon sought to turn the popular lip sync competition from the “Tonight” show into a television series, NBC turned down one of its biggest stars – a decision that seems like an embarrassing mistake.
Fallon and his production partners instead brought “Lip Sync Battle” to Viacom-owned Spike TV, where it instantly became a hit.
“People are responding to music that they love and to celebrities performing in a different way,” said Casey Patterson, executive producer. “It’s like ‘Saturday Night Live,’ it’s always a treat to see celebrities moving out of their comfort zone.”
Celebrities are calling Spike “every day” to get on the show, she said.
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NBC would not say why it passed on “Lip Sync Battle.” NBC already airs two cycles of “The Voice” each year and the summertime hit “America’s Got Talent,” so they could be at their limit of talent competitions. And when the show was first pitched to NBC, it reportedly featured civilian competitors.
NBC Universal owns several cable networks, including USA, Bravo, E! Entertainment, Oxygen and Esquire, where a show with the audience of “Lip Sync Battle” would be a game-changer, as it has been for Spike. It’s not clear which of those networks, if any, was offered a chance at the show.
The series was pitched to Spike as a celebrity contest, but it wasn’t a slam-dunk decision for Spike to pick it up. The lip sync battles on the “Tonight” show weren’t as popular as they later became and, because of the need to get clearances for music used on the show, it wasn’t cheap to produce, she said.
The show’s April 2 premiere lured 2.2 million people to Spike, its biggest audience in nearly a decade. In 31 airings on Spike and sister Viacom networks MTV and BET, the first three episodes had been seen by more than 24.7 million people, the Nielsen company said.