Gold Rush, the online reality series AOL and Mark Burnett Productions announced in January, has its first media partner. The CBS network has agreed to participate in a deal that will involve cross-media, cross-promotion and cooperation for advertising sales.
AOL and Mark Burnett have agreed to feature CBS programming, along with ads from shared sponsors, in the fabric of the Gold Rush online game. The companies described a scenario in which game players view CBS TV shows, and the accompanying advertising, searching for "clues" that will help them move forward in the game. CBS won't alter the content of programming to facilitate game play, but will instead give the producers advance looks at shows so that they can incorporate existing elements. CBS may also provide celebrities or show-related content to enhance the online game experience.
"This will be timed for CBS fall line-up," said Ruth Sarfaty, an AOL spokesperson. "Shows that CBS wants to highlight will be promoted as part of the game." Gold Rush is set to debut in September.
The game will take place both online and in the real world as contestants pursue stashes of "hidden treasure" across the U.S. Clues will be seeded around the AOL network, including on AOL.com, AIM.com, Moviefone.com and MapQuest.com. The companies are working to sign other media partners in radio and print, but CBS is the exclusive television participant. Print publications might include AOL siblings in the Time Warner network, Sarfaty said.
The companies will work together to win advertisers whose products and brands will be incorporated into the game and into the various media partners' properties. A wireless sponsor, for example, might prompt the producers to include a text-messaging component in the game. A theme park sponsor could inspire a real-world location for gameplay. Details of the game itself are still being worked out.
"We are obviously going collectively for big sponsors for the game," Sarfaty said. "It'll be a very coordinated effort but Burnett is very much the main attraction . The possibilities [for integration] are endless, literally."
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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