Yahoo Touts Success, Expansion of Mark Burnett Deal

Renowned reality show firm Mark Burnett Productions has extended and expanded its relationship with Yahoo. Under the new terms, the portal will produce, host, and sell advertising on the upcoming “The Contender” boxing-themed series.

Previously, Yahoo performed the same duties for the second season of “The Apprentice” and agreed to it again for the third season, which began Thursday. The deal’s financial terms were not disclosed.

“‘The Apprentice’ has been amazingly successful for us, as well as for the advertisers. We’ve been able to drive a lot of traffic to the advertisers on the Web site, as well as to those who have product integration in the program,” said Jim Moloshok, Yahoo’s senior VP of entertainment and content acquisition. “We have been able to change television impressions into online engagement.”

“The Contender” site, which launches along with the show February 21, will showcase original content produced especially for the microsite and accompanied by video advertising. Though the boxing matches won’t be shown in their entirety on TV, viewers can see them online. The portal will also create a special “Contender”-themed IMvironment for Yahoo Messenger, which lets users box one another using the IM (define) client.

Though Moloshok won’t reveal “Apprentice” advertisers who have integrated their products with the show’s content this season, he said Intel, Staples, Microsoft, and Sony Pictures have already signed to sponsor the Web site. Staples has produced “Apprentice”-specific creative for the Web. Text on the ads read, “Whether it’s up in the suite or down on the street, Staples makes your next task easy.”

“It’s really tied to the show. Every couple of weeks, they have another ad campaign themed to the show itself,” he said.

Moloshok touts the deal’s expansion as a testament to the power of combining TV and online content and marketing. He cites examples such as a partnership with Ciao Bella Gelato company. In that promotion, Ciao Bella agreed to produce small batches of special ice cream flavors cooked up by contestants of “The Apprentice” and featured on the show.

The resulting flavors were shipped to stores across the country — outside of Ciao Bella’s distribution network — and promoted in a 10-second spot at the end of the TV show. The call to action urged viewers to go to Yahoo and search for “apprentice ice cream” and enter their ZIP Codes to find out where the ice cream was available in the area.

“We then said, ‘Put your address here’, and used Yahoo Maps to show [visitors] how to get there,” Moloshok said. “By 5 p.m. the next day, Ciao Bella had sold out the ice cream nationally.”

A similar deal resulted in viewers searching for “apprentice jeans” on Yahoo Shopping and being sent to J.C. Penney’s online store. The TV episode had featured contestants designing a catalog for Levi’s. Moloshok said “apprentice jeans” was still the top searched-for item on Yahoo four days after the call to action appeared on the show.

“Everybody talks about the era of interactive television, about what entertainment and television will be in the future,” said Moloshok. “What we’re doing now is we’re accomplishing this in an experience which I call my ‘bifocal’ experience.” He went on to explain the viewers focus on TV in the background and on a laptop in the foreground.

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