Mummers Parade gets a television agreement

Posted: December 09, 2003

It wasn't quite two minutes to midnight, but it was pretty close.

With just over three weeks left before New Year's Day, a television station has finally agreed to show the Mummers Parade.

Under an agreement that was awaiting signatures last night, WPHL-TV (Channel 17) will televise the annual parade live from Broad Street. Long a staple of local television each Jan. 1, the parade had been in danger of being knocked off the air this year.

"Once I get some signatures, we'll be all set," WPHL general manager Vincent R. Giannini said.

"We have an agreement in principle," said George Badey, who negotiated with the television station on behalf of the parade's string bands and its Comic and Fancy Divisions. "All that remains to be done is that it needs to be drawn up on paper."

The agreement follows an offer by the Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, a community group with ties to State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.), to provide a $250,000 subsidy for the telecast.

Though popular with the general public, Mummers Parades are expensive to televise, especially when weather forces a delay. Telecasts have lost money in recent years.

Kenneth Snyder, a spokesman for the alliance, said the group stepped forward because the Mummers are a "cultural icon" whose annual strutting also brings important tourist dollars into Philadelphia's economy.

"The production costs are prohibitive for TV stations," Snyder said. "We requested from various TV stations a budget for production and agreed that if they could get all sides to agree, we could pay for the production costs."

Under the arrangement, the Mummers' share of proceeds from advertising revenue will be divided among the often-quarreling Mummers groups based on the divisions' historical Nielsen ratings.

The String Band, Comic, and Fancy Divisions, which parade on Broad Street, will receive 89.7 percent of the Mummers' share. The Fancy Brigades, which stage a show in the Convention Center, will receive the remaining 10.3 percent.

The Fancy Brigades, whose shorter indoor performances traditionally draw the smallest television audience, also earn money from corporate sponsors, said spokeswoman Christine Cleaver Harrer.

Not that the TV proceeds will mean a windfall. With so little time to sell ads, Giannini said, "no one's going to make a lot of money off of this."

Mummers Parades were televised nearly every year for decades. WPHL had telecast the last nine parades but did not renew its deal after it expired in January.

Giannini, who took over at WPHL only last month, said he and Mummers representatives had been negotiating the telecast for the past two weeks and would now turn their attention to drumming up advertisers.

"Now we'll see how good my new sales team is," he said.

Contact staff writer Michael Currie Schaffer at 215-854-4565 or mcschaffer@phillynews.com.

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