NBCU Uses Common, Kanye to Show Local TV Websites Can Be Cool

Secret Venues, Private Concerts Aim to Attract Young Users

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- "Is this for the Common show?" asked one man hopefully, peering beneath the umbrellas lined up in the pouring rain last night outside the Angel Orensanz Foundation on New York's Lower East Side.

Common performing at a 'secret' show on New York's Lower East Side.
Common performing at a 'secret' show on New York's Lower East Side. Credit: NBC New York/Rachel Rique
Yes, he had found the line for a "secret" Common show, the first of what will be many "Locals Only" events NBC Universal Local Media is throwing in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in an attempt to change the image of a local TV website. In fact, they'd prefer you not think of it as a "TV" website at all.

NBC Universal took over the management of the websites of its nine owned-and-operated stations last fall that had been operated under contract by Internet Broadcasting. Now, they've re-branded them with the help of Mother, New York. The idea: Shed the sites' staid image and older demos in favor of, well, the kind of kids who would line up in the rain for a Common show.

Getting a feel for the city
"What we're trying to build is that place people can go to get a feel for what's going on in this city in real time," said NBCU Senior VP Brian Buchwald.

Visitors to the site were asked to take a quiz to "prove" they're locals by answering questions about their city's landmarks; NBC released 10 tickets for two every day for 10 days. Also attending: about 100 Geffen label execs, advertising agency folk and NBC employees.

The 200 lucky winners were told of the "secret" venue the day of the show, and were asked to use a code word to get in. They got a pretty good deal. After midnight, Kanye West joined Common onstage. With any luck for NBC, they've turned 200 "locals" into evangelists for nbcnewyork.com.

NBC is doing three "secret" Common shows in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It's the start of a monthly series of events to support the re-branding effort in NBCU's biggest local markets.

Will it work? NBC Universal needs it to. Online is one of few arrows left for the no-growth local TV business, and the key to whether it'll remain relevant as the world goes digital.

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