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Michael Jackson TV special falls apart

July 21, 2009 |  1:43 pm

Getprev-1 Frenzied international interest in all things Michael Jackson notwithstanding, it appears there won't be a TV special this fall.

AEG Live, the promoter behind Jackson's 50 "This Is It" comeback concerts in London, has been negotiating for several days with movie studios for the film rights to the concert rehearsal footage as well as broadcast rights to a tie-in television special.

Although NBC was interested in the project as recently as Monday, and other networks showed interest last week, all of the networks balked over AEG’s $20-million price tag for a show that would not include any new or exclusive footage of Jackson performing, several network sources said. Originally, AEG had tried to sell the special to air Aug. 29 -- Michael Jackson's birthday -- which falls on a Saturday.

But logistical problems -- which include Saturday being the lowest-rated night of the week for TV -- compelled AEG to stipulate that networks program the special in September when TV viewers return to their couches in high numbers, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the matter. Some TV networks also feared that the TV special would be too similar in content to the documentary film that will be made out of the rehearsal footage.

Over the weekend, Sony Pictures emerged as the front runner for the "This Is It" footage and the film project. An announcement about that film deal is expected today, the source said. The movie would be directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega ("High School Musical"), who had been working with Jackson as the director of the "This Is It" tour. The film would be released in October.

If AEG had gotten its way, the TV special also would have been directed by Ortega  The plans were for a superstar ensemble that could have included Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and will.i.am performing Jackson's hits using the costumes, choreography, and special-effects-driven illusions engineered for the singer's comeback tour.

But no footage of the King of Pop.

"And the cost of that thing is $20 million? With no Michael Jackson? Ha!" said one network source who requested anonymity.

AEG did not immediately return calls for comment.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez and Chris Lee

Photo credit: AP

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