MuchMusic USA, Rainbow Media's music TV network that positions itself as an alternative to Viacom's MTV and VH1, is launching an interactive game show this week called "IMX: Interactive Music Exchange," in which viewers invest IMX dollars in music artists as if they were stocks and bonds.
The show is a live variety hour hosted by a pair of twentysomethings who present up-to-the-moment information on music stars in imitation of cable financial news shows, complete with video and radio music airplay statistics and charts, record sales numbers, concert ticket sales and a ticker tape crawl so that viewers can make investment decisions. Deals are done in real time via a Web site, mmusa.tv, linked to the live show. The objective of the game is to bulk up a solid portfolio and redeem it for prizes supplied by sponsors.
"We're teaching kids how the stock market works and about risk and reward and return," says Marc Juris, president of MuchMusic USA, who likens IMX to fantasy football for rock stars. "Do you buy Celine Dion and go blue chip, or do you buy Ashanti and take a shot, or a balance of both?"
So far, marketing partners supplying prizes for IMX include Microsoft's Xbox and Dodge Trucks. The show will feature segments on the prize of the week or the prize of the day. Levi's and American Eagle Outfitters have bought spots during the broadcast and are providing clothes for the hosts.
"We have marketers that want to embrace the 12 to 34 target audience," says Corey Silverman, MuchMusic's VP-advertising sales.
IMX will also offer integration deals. For example, Funk Master Flex, a local radio DJ who is also a spokesman for Lugz shoes, will appear as a "hip-hop expert" giving tips on investing in hip-hop stars. The network also is negotiating a contract with a major beverage company, Silverman says, that will sponsor a weekly segment called "IMO," or Initial Music Offering, IMX's version of an initial public offering.
Like MTV's studio windows facing Times Square, IMX will be filmed in a New York City street-front studio at 11 Penn Plaza, next to Madison Square Garden. The show will occasionally feature live performances and appearances by music artists.
MuchMusic USA is owned by Rainbow Media, a division of Cablevision Systems and General Electric Corp.'s NBC. The Long Island-based company acquired U.S. licensing for the network in 2000 from Chum Ltd., a Toronto-based media company that operates the network throughout Canada. Rainbow has since expanded distribution to all major carriers in the U.S.-except for Comcast-and the network appears in approximately 30 million U.S. homes.
"MuchMusic USA is a contender," says Doug McVehil, VP-video promotion, Epic Records. "They are all music, all the time." Juris contends that his network is filling a need left open after MTV began scaling back on videos to concentrate on developing programs such as "The Real World" and "The Osbournes." He calls his network independent.
"When I say independent, I mean not owned by Viacom," Juris says. "One company is controlling all the music you hear and see on television. And they also control a large number of radio stations." In contrast, viewers choose the video playlist on MuchMusic. "We're not dictating, we're curating," Juris says.
Will music stars embrace being traded like so many stocks and bonds on IMX?
"I haven't seen it yet; I don't know if it's tasteful or not," says David Saslow, VP-director of video promotions, Interscope A&M Geffen. "It seems like a whimsical way of doing a countdown show. But if it works on the Web and gets attention, then it will only benefit our artists."