« Back to Posts

An Open Letter To NBC On Live Musicals And “Hamilton”


Dear NBC,

Hey guys. It’s TVRev. We’ve covered how networks are making money off musicals before and we think you have a unique opportunity to perform a public good and make a tidy profit while doing it. What we’re suggesting may be a bit unprecedented, but you decided to forgo criticism back when you did “The Sound Of Music Live” and it worked. It’s been a while since TV took something that was brand new and put it on stage – let’s change that. Let’s film “Hamilton” live from the Richard Rodgers with its original cast and an audience.

This past Monday, the Grammys showed viewers who didn’t already know about the show precisely why theater critics have been buzzing for the past year about this new American musical that takes the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and sets it to a predominantly hip-hop flavored score. It won the Grammy and is expected to sweep up all the Tony’s later this summer. The performance of the opening number showed that the Rodgers can be equip with the necessary equipment to capture the drama. Between the Tony’s and the Grammys, it may sound like broadcasting “Hamilton” would be CBS’ priority, but NBC has an advantage in this race to broadcast the ten dollar founding father without a father, namely Chairman Bob Greenblatt.

Greenblatt is not only an investor in “Hamilton,” but also the reason that Leslie Odom Jr., one of the shows stars, is in the production, having released him from his pilot commitment for the drama “State of Affairs.” Last month during the TCA Winter Press Tour, Greenblatt said he’d like to do a filmed version of Hamilton, but predicted that it would be “years before they even look at a movie or any kind of film version of that show.” That’s understandable while the show is still on Broadway, but given that the show recouped a quarter of its investment over a five-week period and is sold out 12 months in advance, airing it live on television would not be a significant detriment to the box office. It routinely beats stalwarts like “The Lion King” and “Wicked” as the top grossing musical of the week. The investors, Greenblatt included, will be making their money back. And with a year plus of tickets already booked, a televised version wouldn’t effect the box office; if anything it would increase sales, as people would want to see the real thing once they saw the televised version.

One of the few criticisms aimed at the show is its increasing unaffordability for people to see. The cast album is the entire show minus one small scene, but it isn’t the same as actually viewing the show. The album clocks in at just under two and a half hours, so a three-hour production with the forty minutes of ad time sold at a premium to sponsors is feasible. Brands would line up to associate themselves with the show. The integrations wouldn’t be as seamless as Coke and “Grease,” but there’s no reason why a brand wouldn’t want to harness the revolutionary spirit of America Then Told By America Now.

There are of course risks to putting this on – the subject material isn’t the cleanest (Dueling! Sex scandals! The American Revolution!), and because the show is on Broadway, rehearsals would be difficult at best. But the show already has its blocking and cues down, and if the Met Opera Live In HD productions have taught us anything, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with a combination of wide and tight shots to make up a show. We don’t need to see Hamilton’s point of view. If anything, that would detract from certain scenes. Just give us the show from the perspective we would have if we were in the audience.

NBC, you have a unique opportunity here. Record one of the most original musicals in a decade with its original cast for posterity and let the world see it. Smash the ratings record you hold from “Sound Of Music.” Keep the show exactly as it is and bring in some daring brands looking to not throw away their shot. And give those who haven’t been fortunate enough to see it live yet something to watch.

Until then, we have the honor to be your obedient servant,


TV dot Rev