Mark Burnett Tries Web-Only Reality Series on AOL.com

Mark Burnett has continued his decidedly promiscuous dalliance with U.S. portals, striking a deal with AOL to produce a new online-only broadband video reality series with extensive marketer integration within the show itself.

Called “Gold Rush,” the show will follow the exploits of contestants pursuing stashes of “hidden treasure” across the U.S. Clues to the whereabouts of treasure will be seeded around the AOL network, including on AOL.com, AIM.com, Moviefone.com and MapQuest.com.

Marketing opportunities include both standard digital ad products, especially video, and product placement. Its a combination that’s worked well in Burnett’s prior online distribution deals, which have included “The Apprentice” on Yahoo and “Rock Star:INXS” on MSN. The Yahoo relationship in particular made headlines in the ad trades, for its successful promotion integrated products across the portal’s search, small business, IM and other services.

Gold Rush will have all that and more, according to Kevin Conroy, SVP and COO of AOL for Broadband.

Conroy did not specify what “more” might mean in this instance, but it would be possible for a reality program to add interactivity within the video frame, a technique sometimes known as hot spotting. Asked about this possibility, Conroy declined to comment.

“Mark has shown a real focus on and commitment to integrating advertisers in a very unique way into the programs he’s created,” he said. “Our goal is to take that to a whole new level with this initiative. If you combine that sensibility with the unique attributes of the Internet, it provides a fantastic platform for advertisers to not just be associated with [the show, but also]…have a tremendous amount of consumer engagement.”

AOL will promote Gold Rush with interactive ad placements on and off its network, as well as via TV, print and wireless.

“The immediate future will take advantage of content that utilizes television, print and the Internet in concert,” said Mark Burnett in a statement. “AOL and I are embracing this immediate future through ‘Gold Rush.'”

While Burnett has worked with portals to push whole episodes of his shows online in the past, this is the first digital-only initiative.

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