Burnett, AOL In Talks To Extend 'Gold Rush' Abroad

AOL and reality TV executive Mark Burnett are considering taking the interactive game "Gold Rush" abroad.

Burnett told OnlineMediaDaily he's currently evaluating whether to extend the franchise to other countries; if so, AOL would have first rights to the show, he said. AOL also confirmed that it is in discussions with Burnett about launching the show abroad.

The online reality show, which pits contestants against each other for a chance to win a total of the $2.2 million prize money in gold, went live last month with five sponsors--Best Buy, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola Zero, T-Mobile USA, Inc. and Washington Mutual.

Last month, Gold Rush drew 4.9 million unique visitors, according to comScore. AOL's internal numbers show that the show, through Oct. 18, has drawn around 7.3 million total uniques. By comparison, Burnett's TV reality show "Survivor" tends to draw around 16 million viewers each week.

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Aside from having a smaller audience than hit TV shows, it's also not clear that "Gold Rush" has gained traction in online culture, at least as measured by blogosphere mentions. A recent Technorati search for the terms "Gold Rush" and AOL yielded 1,233 results from blogs; searching the terms "Gold Rush" and Burnett called up 748 results. By contrast, a search on the terms "Survivor" and CBS called up 18,977 results, while "Survivor" and Burnett yielded 4,200.

But, despite any lags in online viewership, Burnett says he plans to devote more resources to the Web in the future. In addition to extending the show abroad, he's also planning for a second season of "Gold Rush" in the United States.

Currently, 100 of the 1,500 employees in Mark Burnett Productions are devoted to online programming--a proportion that has been growing steadily as TV shows have stepped up efforts to create Web add-ons.

"There is an increasing market share of Web-based content for advertisers," Burnett said. "It behooves me to become experienced in this space because it will pay off this year, next year and the year after."

Beth Oliver, senior vice president at Campbell-Ewald, which handled Chevrolet's involvement in the game, added that more people have participated as players in the game than the agency anticipated. We're very pleased with the creativity on the site and its stickiness that allows people to see our creative and interact with the brand," she said.

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