Prudential Center’s Sean Saadeh Discusses Significance Of Venue Hosting VMAs

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– VMAs Take New Jersey
Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment CEO Scott O’Neil speaks during the MTV Video Music Awards news conference May 6 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Prior to last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, VenuesNow connected with Prudential Center executive vice president of entertainment Sean Saadeh to discuss the significance of the venue hosting the buzzy awards show.

When MTV’s Video Music Awards descend on Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Monday, the event will mark the first time since 2007 – and only the fourth time in the show’s 35-year history – that the VMAs have been held outside of New York City or Los Angeles.

“Working with (MTV owner) Viacom has been such a pleasure,” said Sean Saadeh, the venue’s executive vice president of entertainment. “They’ve really embraced New Jersey as this play for the 2019 VMAs. I’m grateful for them being the pioneers of checking ‘yes’ to New Jersey for these big-time awards shows.”

The event, which will be hosted by comic Sebastian Maniscalco, is a culminating moment for Prudential Center, which has worked to improve its programming since coming under new ownership earlier this decade.

“When Josh Harris and David Blitzer, our managing partners, took over the Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils, they really wanted to elevate our programming menu,” Saadeh said.

VenuesNow connected with Saadeh to discuss landing the VMAs, Prudential’s advantages as a facility, and the venue’s place in the regional marketplace.

VENUESNOW: The VMAs haven’t been held outside of New York or Los Angeles since 2007. How did this come about?
We’ve been working feverishly over the last three to four years to put Prudential Center in its rightful place as one of the top venues in the world, and we’ve achieved that. Through that vision we were able to get noticed by the TV production companies, the Viacoms of the world, on what we’re doing. That was a very important first step to do something like this.

The logistics aspects of our building compared to other venues in this marketplace, the ease of getting into and out of the building, the efficiencies that come with that were very, very intriguing to the Viacom folks. They liked all of that, accompanied with the fact that we’re in the New York (designated market area), this large marketplace where there’s easy access to talent. I also think they were very intrigued (by) the rise of Newark and the musical history of Newark and New Jersey, and they wanted to highlight that.

What makes Prudential an enticing facility for an event like the VMAs?
We’re not necessarily different than other venues in the United States, but in this particular area, being that it’s New York and New York tends to be challenging as it relates to things like this – the logistics, as well as cost – you kind of get the best of both worlds (with Prudential). You’re marrying great efficiencies in logistics with the fact that you’re in such a large major market like New York.

If we’re going to get real detailed on the logistics: It’s the only venue in the New York DMA that has such easy in and out access, truck bays where you can pull up and unload. The concourse width, where there’s activations, (and) to be able to hang the kind of production that they’re looking to hang, are all really really important aspects to doing these big TV events.

What logistical challenges does hosting and presenting an event like the VMAs present?
Anytime you have an event of this size, it’s always going to be challenging and time consuming. The key is to understand that TV production is different than touring music. What our crew has done very, very well with is understanding what their needs are, and understanding that it’s different than a Live Nation or AEG touring show. There’s a lot of different moving parts, a lot of different departments needing our crew’s time. The fact of the matter is that we need to be on top of it and we have done a very, very good job so far in getting this production together.

Given its location in Newark, how does Prudential compete and interact with the New York City arenas?
The way we have positioned Prudential Center is that we are New Jersey’s building. Many of the buildings in the marketplace get the same show. We get the show and Barclays gets the show, and then it comes back and plays the Garden, or vice versa. But the way we look at it is that we are, from a touring standpoint, an incremental play to New York. In a way, yes, they are competition. But there should never be any question of not playing New Jersey, even though you’re playing New York. Why? Because you have 4.5 million very affluent people living here in New Jersey that would prefer to be on the New Jersey side of things, versus having to commute into the city. One of the reasons we’ve been so successful the last three or four years is because agents, managers, promoters really understand that concept, and there’s facts that back that up.

To what extent is this a culminating moment for Prudential’s entertainment division?
To me, it’s just the beginning. I look at this opportunity as putting us on the map for a lot of these TV production events to come through. We want this to be the best event ever for Viacom. If we can achieve all of that, which I’m confident we will, I feel strongly that we’ll be considered many times in the future for these events.

What aspects of this year’s VMAs programming are you most excited about?
From what I’m hearing, it’s a very big production with a lot of different elements to it, and I think it’s going to be something different than what anybody’s ever seen before, from a creative standpoint. We have an amazing roster of artists that are going to be performing at the show. From Taylor Swift to Shawn Mendes to Camila Cabello to the Jonas Brothers. I love the fact that the Jonas Brothers are performing, because they’re New Jersey natives, and seeing Shawn Mendes, who was literally just in our building (headlining Aug. 11), perform and be back in the venue is going to be exciting too.

This story originally appeared on VenuesNow.