TUCSON, Ariz., Oct. 6, 2010 – The Muscular Dystrophy Association today announced an important change to its perennial Labor Day Telethon, which for 45 years has galvanized tremendous public support for MDA’s lifesaving mission. The Association will shave more than 15 hours off its previous 21½-hour Telethon format. The move is central to a strategy to increase audience for and income from its 2011 Labor Day telecast. The 2010 Telethon raised $58.9 million.
“Ever since pioneering the Telethon as a fundraising, education and sponsor-recognition program, MDA has enjoyed unparalleled support from television and cable stations across America,” said Gerald C. Weinberg, MDA president & CEO and Telethon executive producer. “Our ‘Love Network’ of some 170 stations annually helps us reach an audience of some 40 million Americans. The stations’ efforts, and those of our national, regional and local sponsors, have been truly outstanding.
“What we’re doing now has amazing potential,” Weinberg added. “The shorter format means every hour of our show will be in the extended prime-time window of 6 p.m. to midnight in every time zone. This means our live, or tape-delayed Sunday broadcast with live local segments, will be even more attractive to stations that otherwise primarily would be running repeats from last season. The talent we’ll be attracting will be even bigger, since every moment of our prime-time show will have a tremendous audience.”
With its unrivaled Telethon track record, the Association could very well experience a net gain in total markets reached by its venerable show in 2011. There are more than 1,200 television stations serving communities across America, and it should be much easier for stations to clear six broadcast hours for proven live programming, than it has been to clear nearly two days of programming for the Telethon.
Weinberg explained, “The combination of buzz surrounding the new MDA Labor Day Telethon, and the tremendous good will that stations, on-air personalities and sponsors have consistently enjoyed by partnering with MDA, are a powerful combination. That’s why we’re so optimistic about the new show’s ability to increase audience reached and income in 2011.”
“There’s nothing like our Telethon,” noted Lee Miller, longtime Telethon producer. “In 2010, some 65 top acts performed, including some amazing production numbers by Tyce Diorio of “So You Think You Can Dance” as well as top Broadway and Las Vegas show segments. Our 2011 prime-time focus should make it easier to fill every moment of the show with the best headline entertainment.”
Rich MDA Telethon History
Over the years, countless megastars have appeared on the Telethon to help families affected by muscular dystrophy. And the surprise Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis reunion organized by Frank Sinatra still is one of the 10 best television moments of all time.
The who’s who of historical MDA Telethon appearances by contemporary stars includes: Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, Martin Short, Adam Sandler, Nigel Lythgoe, Nancy O’Dell, Donald Trump, Neil Patrick Harris, Larry King, Jimmy Fallon, William Shatner, Alison Sweeney, Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Regis Philbin, Dr. Phil, Howie Mandel, Jason Alexander, Jann Carl, Woody Harrelson, Billy Crystal, Alan Alda, Tom Arnold, Terry Fator, Carrot Top, Martha Stewart, Bill Cosby and Don Francisco of “Sabado Gigante.”
Consider contemporary musical acts, too, and it’s easy to see why the MDA Telethon is so much a part of Americana. The Telethon audience has enjoyed Celine Dion, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, Clint Black, Cher, David Archuleta, John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting, Gloria Estefan, Enrique Iglesias, Train, Aretha Franklin, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Elton John, Wynnona Judd, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Paul McCartney, Mindy McCready, John Mellencamp, Reba McEntire, Carlos Santana, LeAnn Rimes, Tom Petty, Dolly Parton, Sugarland, Spice Girls, Stevie Wonder, Donny and Marie Osmond, Clay Aiken, Chicago, KISS, Jon Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, Tracy Lawrence, Billy Ray Cyrus, Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers and the Rolling Stones. Even the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, performed on the MDA Telethon.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association pioneered cause-related marketing decades ago, and annually orchestrates thousands of special events in communities across America with the help of outstanding local, multiregional and national sponsors. The first organization with a national Telethon, MDA also is the first nonprofit to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Medical Association (“for significant and lasting contributions to the health and welfare of humanity”).
MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.