Always and Forever and in Reruns

From a bit before noon till around three this afternoon, NY1 pre-empted its regularly scheduled news programming to provide end-to-end coverage of the memorial service for Luther Vandross, who died this week at age 54. The live program, from Riverside Church, showed the R&B world’s version of a New Orleans jazz funeral, with musical performers including Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, and eulogies from the likes of Al Sharpton and Dionne Warwick.

“As a public service, we decided we would put this on television for those who couldn’t make it to the public funeral but who still wanted to be able to celebrate his life,” said Bernie Han, NY1’s vice president of news.

And viewers, according to NY1, couldn’t get enough. The broadcast was so popular that the station plans to re-air the Vandross funeral program at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

“We’ve gotten dozens of calls today from people asking to buy copies of our coverage,” Ms. Han said.

The cost? “Less than $100,” she said. “But we’re telling people when they call that they’ll have an opportunity to see it and record it for themselves. You don’t have to pay for it! We’re not here to make money off of tapes of the man’s memorial service.”

The actual burial of the Ambassador of Love, in Paramus, was open to friends and family only. It was not televised.

–Rebecca Dana