AOL, ABC Partner For Weight-Loss Effort

America Online and ABC's "Good Morning America" today will launch a co-branded Web site, AmericaTakesItOff.com, that will focus on diet advice. Longtime AOL advertiser eDiets will be the site's only sponsor.

AmericaTakesItOff.com, hosted by AOL, will include weight-loss tips, community areas, and a ticker showing how much weight consumers have pledged to shed. It's designed to complement and extend diet-related programming by "Good Morning America" that will air next month.

Through January, AOL.com's welcome screen will drive users to the "America Takes it off" site. No money is changing hands between ABC and AOL, and ABC is not getting a share of the money that eDiets.com is paying AOL to advertise, according to an AOL spokesman.

Reached for comment, an ABC spokeswoman declined to discuss the terms of the AOL partnership.

Shattuck Groome, eDiets.com's senior director of marketing, said eDiets is actively pursuing a deal with ABC to advertise during "Good Morning America" next month.

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The co-branded site will offer content that expands on "Good Morning America" segments, but the site won't include any of the show's footage. For example, "Good Morning America" will tap fitness guru Gregory Joujon-Roche to appear on the air and give diet tips. While Joujon-Roche's "Good Morning America" segment won't appear on the "America Takes It off" site, AOL might arrange for Joujon-Roche to expand on his on-air comments on the Web, an AOL spokesman said.

AOL also will use the site to promote other AOL sections, including its newly launched "Coaches" initiative and its long-standing diet and fitness section. For instance, fitness expert Jorge Cruise--one of the authors that AOL promotes in "Coaches"--will be featured on Americatakesitoff.com, and the content will link back to other sections of AOL that feature Cruise. He is not scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America."

Tina Sharkey, senior vice president of AOL Network Programming, said Wednesday that the venture is aimed at women between the ages of 25 and 40. "AOL's main audience is still women 25-49; that's the strike zone for us that we're hitting with 'America Takes it off," said Sharkey.

Some analysts, however, expressed doubt about whether such initiatives would have a lasting impact for either AOL or "Good Morning America."

"The potential benefit for GMA is incremental, and the case isn't much different for AOL," said Jupiter analyst Todd Chanko. "They're both targeting a similar audience--specifically women who are concerned about their weight."

Amid intense competition from other online health and fitness properties, however, Chanko said such immense exposure during a peak dieting season could be extremely advantageous for eDiets. "It seems like eDiets has the most to gain here," Chanko said, adding: "No pun intended."

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