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Carson Daly show revamps to focus on music

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - With the debut of its 10th season on September 20, NBC’s “Last Call With Carson Daly” is overhauling its format to become predominantly focused on music, offering live performances, behind-the-scenes artist segments and spotlights dedicated to emerging acts.

“Before we ditched the studio, we’d been locked into that kind of late-night feel: monologue, then a desk thing, then the lead guest,” says Daly, who started out as a VJ on MTV’s “TRL” and as a DJ at KROQ Los Angeles. “Music has always been kind of an afterthought in the world of late night, which was a dumb thing for me since it’s the epicenter of who I am. This new format enables us to include music wherever we want.”

Among the acts that will be featured on upcoming episodes are Alberta Cross, the Walkmen, Japandroids and Broken Bells. “Carson’s like, ‘If we can do an entire half hour on music, that’s what we want to do,’” says Davis Powers, music booker for “Last Call.” “Certainly we’ll program it where if it’s a big-name act, they can take the whole half hour. But our main goal is to program our half-hours as music-heavy as possible so you’re getting variety and different types of content.”

Aside from reality TV shows, music-centered programing is almost nonexistent on network TV. While IFC’s “360 Sessions” and select episodes of Sundance Channel’s “Iconoclasts” provide cable viewers an in-depth look at recording artists and their work, this sort of programing rarely appears on the broadcast networks.

The music-centric format was tested during the show’s ninth season, under the auspices of new executive producer Stewart Bailey, who previously worked on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” Guy Oseary also remains as “Last Call” co-executive producer.

“I have to give (Bailey) a lot of credit for this -- I feel much more comfortable and in my element, and not like I’m playing the part of a late-night host,” Daly says. “I’m out in the real world and I get to organically talk about music.”

Besides taking “Last Call” into its 10th season, Daly also serves as DJ for KAMP-FM Los Angeles. In addition, Daly will continue to host NBC’s “New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly.”

A segment of the show, “Spotlight,” focuses on emerging or underexposed artists; among those to be featured include Jay Electronica, Big Freedia and Tift Merritt.

“All the other traditional late-night shows are feeling the pressure of booking what is on the charts -- the top 10 acts -- and they all fight for it,” Daly says. “We have a young staff that’s passionate about music. To me, the power is in the diversity.”

Powers says he’s working with all the major Los Angeles music venues, including the Coliseum, to set up live shoots to incorporate into the “Last Call” slate. “Our approach to shooting artists in a live setting is ambitious,” he says. “(We’ve already) featured Lily Allen at the Wiltern and the xx at the Palladium.”

While the promotional power of a 1:35 a.m.-2:05 a.m. time slot is more limited than that of a show airing in prime time or during the traditional late-night slots, ratings for the show average 873,000 viewers per night, according to Nielsen Media Research, compared with 1.6 million on average for the season to date for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” which precedes “Last Call” on NBC.

Powers says that “Last Call” extends its audience by being available through on-demand cable systems and online. “That’s how we have to look at the content we’re creating -- as snapshots of these artists that you can always come back to,” he says.

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