Not surprising is what comes with it: reality TV, advertising, and yes, your two favorite TV industry words of last season: branded entertainment. Which is why Mark Burnett Productions is now involved in two major first-run shows for those large Internet gathering places--AOL and Yahoo.
For AOL, the show--"Gold Rush!"--is where viewers will scour the AOL areas-- AOL.com, AOL Instant Messenger, Moviefone.com, and MapQuest--to find clues. Grand prize is $1 million. The project has been greenlit, and, in a flip of program and marketing thinking, AOL is looking for TV partners who will have less-than-primary roles with the show. The Internet will be first.
"The Runner" isn't as far along. It's another search reality show for Yahoo. Burnett, along with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Live Planet Productions, was originally attached to the show back in 2001 for ABC when the project last reared its head. Lloyd Braun, who had championed it while as chief of entertainment at ABC, is now--not so strangely--chief of entertainment for Yahoo. "The Runner" premise relies on trying to hunt down an escaped CIA operative.
It seems the hunt is afoot among both Internet and TV networks. NBC will roll out "Treasure Hunters" this summer, from our friends at the product integration-focused, Madison Road Entertainment. Madison Road, which also has a deal to produce new reality shows with Burnett, also had worked on Burnett's "Apprentice." "Hunters" will be filled with new and usual branded entertainment ideas.
There you go. You see, it all comes back to that: branded entertainment. You probably thought the industry would soon be rid of Nokia-branded phones, Everlast-labeled boxing rings, and potential Idols riding in Ford Focuses. You figured those cooler on-demand deals made late last year by the networks, where users pay $1.99 for advertising-free downloads, would wash away all bad in-show product marketing campaigns from show contestants who turn into loud and untalented ad execs.
On the other hand, Kevin Conroy, executive president of AOL Media Networks, has already made a big deal of his view that many new Internet video projects/channels/ventures should become heavily advertising-supported. AOL is a bigger online proponent than most: it has already agreed to offer up Warner Bros. library TV shows, like "Welcome Back, Kotter," among other almost forgotten TV shows, for free. You just need to spend a little downtime with their sponsors--just 15 seconds.
AOL's "Gold Rush!" show could be the biggest TV show to date on the Internet--but it will probably look and feel too familiar.
Meet the new boss--in daytime. Same as the old boss--in prime time.