Eight years after his death, Johnny Carson is living on in a new medium — via iTunes.
Beginning Tuesday, the Apple service will make material from “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” available for the first time via digital download, including “best of” compilations and 16 edited episodes.
The deal continues efforts to mine the library by Carson Entertainment Group, which is under the stewardship of Jeff Sotzing, Carson’s nephew and a producer on the show during its run.
After having physically stored the 30 years worth of “Tonight Show” episodes for years, Carson Entertainment digitized the entire collection three years ago, making it easier to access individual clips. The company has also assembled DVD collections via johnnycarson.com, while making a deal with Turner Classic Movies to air vintage Carson interviews. The digitized clips were also helpful in assembling the PBS documentary “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night,” which aired last year.
“I’m always amazed that the show continues to have demand, but it does,” Sotzing said, adding that because of clearance issues “it does take a little legwork to make that stuff available.”
In addition to the compilations and selected episodes, iTunes is also offering 50 “alert tones” culled from the show, including catchphrases like “Here’s Johnny!,” “Hi-yo!” and “We’ll be right back,” also available to be downloaded.
Individual episodes are being priced at $1.99, with $2.99 for the “Best of” compilations.
Carson was especially foresighted in negotiating for ownership of his program — leveraging the fact that in its heyday, “The Tonight Show” accounted for roughly a fifth of the network’s profits — although he never could have envisioned its availability on iPads and other new content and distribution streams.
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