NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In a move that appears to take on TV at its own game, Mark Burnett Productions and Yahoo will produce a live boxing bout that will be exclusively available to online viewers, according to an executive familiar with the deal.
|Mark Burnett is producing a live boxing event for Webcast exclusively on the Web.
The bout will be fought by contestants from The Contender reality TV show and has the potential to reach a global online audience. Intel and Toyota Motor Sales USA have signed up as advertisers for the show. Other marketers are also in discussions, the executive said.
Separate, original content
The program, which will contain completely separate and original content from the TV reality show, will be shown May 24 on www.contender.yahoo.com.
Yahoo would not confirm details of the project.
A promotion at the series conclusion of The Contender will drive viewers to Yahoo.com to vote for six boxers who did not qualify to compete for the $1 million purse on the TV show. These six will fight in three actual professional matches at Ceasar's Palace May 24 at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. EST, taking advantage of the broadband-connected at-work viewer.
The online broadcast will be filmed for Yahoo by Mark Burnett's production staff. It will feature appearances by Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard and will have TV-like production quality. The material will be archived in Yahoo video search.
Original video platform
Yahoo's new head of media, Lloyd Braun, has told the industry he wanted to give the Internet its own I Love Lucy moment by integrating the capabilities of the Internet with TV content. Several alliances struck with Mark Burnett Productions could move Mr. Braun closer to his goal of making the Internet an original video entertainment platform in its own right.
The Contender deal comes just as the two companies last week unveiled a multiyear extension of their deal for NBC's hit show The Apprentice.
With broadband penetration expected to reach 60% of online households and 95%-plus in the workplace by the end of this year, consumers can now tune in to experience sight, sound and motion just like on TV. But with the debut of Yahoo's video search service last week, consumers can do something they can't do on TV without planning ahead to program a digital video recorder: immediately search out what they want to see and when they want to see it.
Fueling further fragmentation
Presenting the Internet as a separate content platform "is fueling and facilitating further fragmentation," said Jeff Marshall, senior vice president and managing director of Publicis Groupe's Starcom IP. "But it helps consumers because they get what they want when they want it. Broadband gives consumers infinite access to content they want to see."
Live Internet feeds of college basketball tournament games streamed online during the past three years haven't generated the audience numbers buyers expected, Mr. Marshall said. But if the content is especially compelling and available for on-demand viewing later, it could work well, he said.
Yahoo's agreement with Mark Burnett Productions up to now has included the production company filming up to 40 minutes of original content for Yahoo with each episode of The Apprentice and The Contender.
Success of earlier online tie-ins
Extending the deal is clearly related to the success of the branded entertainment deals that have occurred on The Apprentice through the partnership. (Yahoo won't specify how long the "multiyear" pact is for, except to say it will include the next two seasons of the show with Donald Trump and the first season of the show with Martha Stewart.)
Brands such as Hanes, Staples and Pontiac have sold merchandise directly online following a product's appearance on The Apprentice. For the Pontiac episode, 1,000 viewers reserved Pontiac Solstice cars on Yahoo.com by the time the program finished. Another 4,000 reserved cars by the end of the evening. Hanes and Staples experienced similar sellouts of their T-shirts and desk organizers created by Apprentice contestants as part of a task on the show.
"The consumer can become [like] an extra in the program and own the product being featured by the end of the program," said Jim Moloshok, senior vice president of entertainment and content acquisition at Yahoo in Mr. Braun's unit. "The Internet provides the shortest route between TV and the consumer."
He said the product placements are media buys and would not reveal any financial details.