FremantleMedia Enterprises and teen virtual world Habbo are partnering on an American Idol virtual world slated to launch at the end of January, a first for the iconic music talent show. But those looking for virtual Simon, Paula or David Cook likely will be disappointed. David Luner, SVP-interactive & consumer products for FME, was quite clear on the concept during an interview: “We specifically are not replicating the show. We are not about taking American Idol and creating a virtual show online.”
Why not Second Life? “The biggest thing is we weren’t looking for an open universe; we wanted something controlled and safe. Also, Second Life is far older and skews towards men. Habbo is teens.” And Habbo’s research shows that one in three of its users are American idol fans. The world won’t be a virtual replica but it will be connected to the show’s rhythm; for instance, new virtual goods and activities will be introduced as AI progresses beyond this week’s premiere. The deal includes in-game merchandising and sponsorship rights for the AI brand. (FME licensed a virtual online game to King.com in 2007.)
Luner also sees opportunity in Habbo’s ability to include AI sponsors. FME hopes to extend the AI sponsorships of Coke, *AT&T* and others from TV to Habbo with sponsored events, virtual goods and the like; Luner says those conversations haven’t started.