Ramp Up: Fuse, Online Gambling Site Stage Battle Of Bands

Rainbow Media's Fuse network is close to a deal with the parent of online gambling site Bodog.com to air a band competition this April. Called "Bodog Battle of the Bands," the "American Idol"-style series, produced in part by Bodog, will feature 17 bands vying for a recording contract.

The 11-episode talent contest fits Bodog's target--men ages 18 to 34--and allows it to extend into TV production and other arenas. At the same time, the series allows Fuse, the younger-targeted music network, to portray itself as more committed to music and edgier than MTV.

Fuse also cultivates an image as a multiplatform brand appealing to tech-savvy 12- to-34-year-olds--a group that may be familiar with the Bodog.com operations, which include online poker and sports betting.

Fuse is conducting a similar online-only "search for the next great" battle, called "Steven's Unsigned Band Search." ("Steven" hosts a show on the network.)

Parent Bodog.com Entertainment Group, based in Antigua, is looking to spread its brand into new areas beyond the Web. It apparently has a show based on its BodogFight martial arts competition coming to a broadcast network. In addition, it extends its music connections with an in-house record label that will produce the "Battle of the Bands" winner's work, via a contract ostensibly valued at $1 million.

Bodog was shopping shows this week at NATPE. Also in the works is a show called "Billion-ayre," which would follow the adventures of the company's wealthy founder Calvin Ayre.

A second season of "Battle of the Bands" featuring international musicians is also being prepared.

In addition to media, the company is exploring opportunities in retail, such as a clothing line. With Ayre at the top, the company aspires to build a multi-tentacled brand similar to what Richard Branson has done with Virgin.

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