Nearly 50 years after The Ed Sullivan Show wrapped its final episode and charmed TV viewers for the final time on Sunday night June 6, 1971, it officially joins the streaming universe and lives on forever. UMe today announced an agreement with SOFA Entertainment Inc. for the global digital rights to The Ed Sullivan Show library, which encompasses the influential television program’s historic 23-year primetime run on CBS.
This marks the first time that Ed Sullivan Show performance and guest segments will be officially available in their entirety across streaming services worldwide. Launching today on The Ed Sullivan Show’s official YouTube channel, the first segments showcase landmark live musical performances.
Among the voluminous gems in this vast catalog are iconic clips that have primarily only been available in excerpted versions on EdSullivan.com or as low-resolution digital “bootlegs.” Scores of rarities will also be available digitally for the first time. Icons and up-and-comers appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, which welcomed entertainers and influential figures from just about every category of cultural relevance, including music, comedy, sports, film, dance and opera. Many segments will be upgraded to high-resolution clips as part of UMe’s strategic curation of a national treasure that has achieved international acclaim.
Available now, the first seven segments to stream under this new arrangement celebrate music artists, with a new video premiering every day and thousands more clips from the catalog to stream over the next three years. UMe plans one or more videos daily on The Ed Sullivan Show’s official YouTube channel and EdSullivan.com, both newly updated.
Bruce Resnikoff, UMe President & CEO, said, “UMe is proud to continue its successful relationship with SOFA Entertainment. Together we will transform an incredible treasure trove from The Ed Sullivan Show to the streaming era and to new audiences. Ed Sullivan was a pioneer of his time and is responsible for many pivotal TV performances and significant moments in entertainment history. We will now introduce these high-quality landmark television performances from musicians, comedians and Broadway that catapulted the careers of many icons to a global audience.”
“SOFA Entertainment is thrilled to continue its decade-long relationship with UMe,” said Andrew Solt, CEO of SOFA Entertainment. “The UMe team has the passion and expertise to honor Ed Sullivan’s legacy and create new ways for people around the world to enjoy it. I’m overjoyed that the SOFA Entertainment stewardship is now in the hands of my son, Josh, who has experience with digital content including five years at Google.”
Josh Solt, who is now President of SOFA Entertainment, said, “We have enormous potential to build The Ed Sullivan Show into a global brand. I am extremely excited that UMe shares SOFA Entertainment’s vision to make The Ed Sullivan Show accessible to existing fans and future generations.”
The Ed Sullivan Show brought the hottest performances from around the world and introduced emerging talent to America’s living room every Sunday night. The show featured some of the earliest or first televised performances of music superstars including Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, The Band, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Jackson 5, The Mamas and the Papas, The Supremes, and The Rolling Stones.
Families also gathered together on Sunday nights to see their favorite film stars and sports figures. The Ed Sullivan Show previewed films (African Queen, American In Paris, Best Years Of Our Lives, Bridge On The River Kwai, Roman Holiday) and interviewed icons: Brigitte Bardot, Charlton Heston, Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Peter Sellers, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, and Steve McQueen.
Ed Sullivan, who was personally involved in his show’s bookings, was known to have said he wanted to “entertain all of the people some of the time” – from providing grandparents with glimpses of vaudeville to offering parents Hollywood stars and sports figures to bringing teenagers their next poster idols, and youngsters the Italian mouse, Topo Gigio. Over the course of two decades, he cast aside racial, political and cultural boundaries to ensure that audiences witnessed the best and the brightest.
In a time of segregation, Ed Sullivan, an influential Civil Rights advocate, invited African-American actors (Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll), athletes (Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson), comedians (Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson) and musicians (Harry Belafonte, James Brown, Motown artists such as Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes), to name just a few, to appear on the show.
For many Motown artists, a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show represented a pivotal career milestone bringing their talents to mainstream America and catapulting them to the top of the charts with breakout success. He was the first to bring country music (Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Dean, Brenda Lee and Buck Owens) to national television viewers.
Ed Sullivan sought out international talent, entertainers, performers and influential personalities from the U.K. (18 Groups/Singers of the British Invasion, Julie Andrews, Cliff Richard), France (Johnny Hallyday, Edith Piaf, Brigitte Bardot), Italy (Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida), Spain (Andrés Segovia, Salvador Dalí, José Greco), Germany (Obernkirchen Children’s Choir), Japan (The Blue Comets), Ireland (Peter O’Toole, The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners) and Israel (Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion).
Mainstream America’s introduction to Broadway, classical, opera and ballet was often through exposure on The Ed Sullivan Show. Broadway productions were frequently encapsulated into extended segments along with the great songwriters, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Lerner and Lowe, who often brought the original casts of their musicals, including My Fair Lady (Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison), Bye Bye Birdie (Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde), Oliver! (Davy Jones), Camelot (Richard Burton, Julie Andrews) and more.
Classical violinist and then 13-year-old prodigy Itzhak Perlman was invited to perform, and Louisiana-born classical pianist Van Cliburn appeared after winning the Tchaikovsky competition in Russia. Spain’s classical guitarist Andrés Segovia, and Japan’s Suzuki Violins, also graced The Ed Sullivan Show stage. Among the most famous and celebrated sopranos from the world of opera, Maria Callas, who rarely made public appearances, performed Tosca, and Beverly Sills performed an aria. Dance included mambo, tango, tap (Sammy Davis, Jr.) and Russia’s Moiseyev Ballet.
The Ed Sullivan Show prided itself on celebrating the superstars as much as the up-and-coming and the offbeat, including acrobatic teams, dance teams, drill teams, college sport teams, rifle teams, marching bands, novelty acts, plate spinners and jugglers. Occasionally, Ed Sullivan also gave political figures a platform to speak to America, including presidents, senators and governors.
Launching on YOUTUBE, the first segments below showcase landmark live musical performances.