Announces Product-Placement Deal With Hewlett-Packard

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NEW YORK ( -- In a product integration partnership, MTV Networks and Hewlett-Packard have created a summer series called That '70s House that spoofs the PBS reality genre that challenges participants to live the life -- and deprivations -- of a historical period, such as Frontier House.
MTV Networks has launched a new push to integrate product messages into its programming.

The difference with the new show is that the historical period is the 1970s and the deprivations relate to a life lived without any of today's computer communications services or digital gizmos.

The HP 'closet'
For the series, a group of teenagers share a Brady Bunch-style home in Los Angeles that's without cable, cell phones or the Internet. Participants who achieve certain tasks are rewarded with a visit to the "2000 closet," stacked full of HP technology.

Along with the high-profile brand integration into the show, MTV's production unit has created three commercials for HP around the theme "Then and Now." The spots promote the show as well as the products.

John Shea, executive vice president of integrated marketing at MTV Networks' music group, said the media company is also working with two other brands -- clothing retailer American Eagle and Starbuck's -- on two other upcoming shows currently in development.

MTV 2 seeks product placements
MTV 2 is also moving closer toward opening its programming to commercial message placements. Mr. Shea said the MTV sibling channel is creating a series of "entertizements," short-form programming that will embed brand promotions. For example, if a street artist is painting a new MTV logo, the artist might pull out a certain can of soda.

"It is the perfect opportunity for the right partners to be part of that visual candy," Mr. Shea said. "It could be 'Saving art, brought to you by blankety blank.'"

The announcements come a day before MTV Networks holds its upfront presentation in New York, with Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Mariah Carey and Black Eyed Peas all expected to be in attendance. MTV Networks houses 14 ad-supported channels -- among them VH1, CMT, Nickelodeon, Spike and Comedy Central -- and seven Web sites. MTV Networks' president of advertising sales, Larry Divney, said the Viacom-owned network is employing a new slogan, "Everyone, everywhere, every way," to pitch its advertisers on its multiple cross-media platforms.

"There's isn't a platform that a viewer uses that we won't have," Mr. Divney said.

More resistant to commercials
When asked whether MTV's younger viewers, who are typically more resistant to commercial messages than older consumers, might be turned off by the new strategy, Mr. Shea said product integration can be done well if it's "tongue in cheek," if it's "invisible" or "forging new ground."

"If you can see a deal," he said, "you are not doing it well."

Mr. Divney added that Verizon is currently in conversations about working more closely with MTV Networks properties through its wireless programming service, VCast.

Consumer time studies
Betsy Frank, executive vice president of research and planning for Viacom's cable, film and publishing units, told the company would resume its "media, entertainment and leisure-time study" that had been on hiatus for the past two years. The survey aims to find out how Americans spend their spare time. According to Ms. Frank's research, in a nine-hour day, adults 18 to 49 years old spend 3.1 hours watching TV; 3.5 hours with a mix of media, including music, print, home computer, VCR, DVD and personal video recorders; and 2.4 hours squeezing in other activities, such as eating, sports and talking on the phone. Ms. Frank said MTV Networks would become more willing to share its research on young-adult behavior with its advertising partners.

Mr. Divney would not reveal MTV Networks' goals in terms of cost-per-thousand-viewers rate increases, saying simply the channels were up 17% in core demographics and that "we'll be fairly well sold in the upfront" ad-inventory buying period.

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