How 'Lip Sync Battle' Booked (And Broke out With) Beyonce
The Jan. 7 opener has already grossed a network best 4.7 million viewers and 3.4 rating among adults 18-49 after just three days of DVR, an anomaly in a crowded unscripted landscape that's been long-starved for the hit. And while its live viewing alone was enough to top cable's Thursday offerings, a cameo by Beyonce during the showdown between husband-and-wife Channing and Jenna Dewan Tatum brought a 88 percent boost from time-shifting.
Beyonce's arrival, it turns out, was a year in the making.
"We don't choose the songs for the performers — it's always their choice — and, since day one, the most requested artist has been Beyonce," Casey Patterson, who executive produces the show alongside Matador Content's Jay Peterson, told The Hollywood Reporter. "She's been the holy grail, and we've always been in contact with her camp. They know when we're gearing up for production."
Lip Sync Battle relies on the interest and participation of artists and record labels to clear rights for celebrities' chosen songs, so Beyonce has apparently been long aware of the interest to use her material. She gave the green light for Channing Tatum to tackle "Run the World (Girls)," but it wasn't until the eve of production that she committed to appearing alongside the actor. "Channing, during one of his rehearsals, sent an iPhone video message to her about two days before the show," says Patterson. "Only Channing and Beyonce know the back and forth, but I think that's what put it over the top."
Adding to the drama, Tatum and Beyonce had never met prior to the taping. Producers were keen to keep it that way until the absolute last moment, so there moves backstage were carefully choreographed to keep the duo from running into one another — and keep Dewan Tatum in the dark.
"That moment on air, that's the first time they ever met," Patterson adds. "He's dressed as her, dancing and singing to her song. We were just hoping he would keep dancing."
Pulling off the appearance set a high booking bar even for Lip Sync Battle, which has already included appearances from The Rock, Anne Hathaway, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. In addition to setting ratings highs, Channing and Beyonce's encounter (not to mention Dewan Tatum's ode to Magic Mike with Ginuwine's "Pony") — lit up YouTube. Within a week of the clip going online, it's already grossed just shy of 20 million views. Patterson says the show's digital initiative — Spike touts half a billion views for Lip Sync Battle content across all platforms — has required a careful negotiation between courting buzz online and boosting Nielsen ratings.
"There's a lot of competition out there and you have to show the breadth of the franchise if you want to cut through," she says. "It's not eating into the linear rating, they're feeding each other, but it's a very fine balance."