MTV GOES ALL OUT FOR GAMERS

Acquires Gaming Network and Programs Weeklong Festival

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- MTV is embracing a new kind of video -- video games -- as a way to snare viewers and boost its balance sheet.

MTV kicked off “Gamorz Week,” a programming stunt the network plans to build into a regular feature.
Yesterday MTV Networks acquired Gametrailers.com, an online gaming and entertainment network that produces video content targeting gamers. The site, which has more than 8,000 hours of gaming-related broadband video and media partners including AOL, Comcast.net, Ask.com, PlayStation.com, Xbox.com and About.com, produces gaming reviews, previews and coverage of gaming industry events.

As a fledgling gaming network, Gametrailers.com is a nice fit for both MTV’s target audience as well as the network’s strategy of building up its streaming video inventory. Previously, Viacom executives said they had been interested in acquiring online gaming network IGN; News Corp. outbid the company and bought the network for $650 million. The terms of the Gametrailers.com acquisition weren’t disclosed.

Building a franchise
The deal comes as the Viacom-owned business is trying to build a gaming franchise, much as it has with its music and movies. This week, for example, is MTV’s inaugural “Gamorz Week,” a programming stunt the network plans to build into a regular platform.

“Gamorz Week is the next evolution with what we’ve done with Spankin’ New Music Week and New Movie Week,” said John Shea, exec VP-integrated marketing, MTV Networks music group. “Our viewers are now, in addition to movies and music, about all things gaming as well.”

Gamorz Week includes specials such as “This Sims Life” and “Making of the Video Game: ‘True Crime: New York City’” and MTV News segments on racism and gaming and one titled “Gaming Cost Me My Girlfriend.” Gaming storylines are injected into the network’s regularly scheduled shows, such as “MTV2 Hip-hop” and “TRL” and MTV will run a special on the Cyberathlete Professional League finals, which took place Nov. 22 in New York.

Playing to its core
One reason for the gaming focus is that video games are a content-fueled product, which makes them a prime programming subject. But even more important, the network needs to focus on the subject to keep its core audience of 12- to-34-year-olds -- the most likely demographic to spend time gaming -- interested. According to Nielsen Entertainment’s recent report, “Benchmarking the Active Gamer,” video games are assuming a greater cultural role, much like TV and movies do today. It indicated that nearly 25% of a gamer’s leisure time is spent playing video games and that male gamers play 12 hours per week on average.

The initial Gamorz Week had a limited integrated marketing element, mostly confined to an Xbox 360 promotion and a giveaway of a Subaru Impreza XRX STI, one of the vehicles in Midway Home Entertainment’s “L.A. Rush” game, on a “TRL” show.

But Mr. Shea sees that changing.

“Over time we will evolve these kinds of sponsor relationships in the context of gaming week to be deeper and more integrated, like what we create around the [Video Music Awards],” he said. Until then, he said, the network has used Gamorz Week as an opportunity for more traditional MTV advertisers -- Taco Bell, Burger King, Toyota -- to get in front of gaming enthusiasts, often a young, hard-to-reach demographic.

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