Off-Net and Online
Web sites market sitcom favorites
By Jim Finkle -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/10/2005 8:00:00 PM
When Barney Martin passed away last month at the age of 82, many newspapers ran short obituaries on the veteran actor, who was best-known for playing Jerry's dad on Seinfeld.
But Martin's death got major play on Seinfeld.com. The Sony Pictures Television-built Web site prominently displayed a photo of Martin on its home page and linked to a video highlighting scenes featuring Morty Seinfeld, Martin's character on the show.
Pulling together the tribute was a no-brainer for the folks who run the site, which is essentially a Seinfeld mini portal that offers everything from video-on-demand clips to “Seinfacts” trivia.
Like sites for many off-net shows, those extras capitalize on nostalgia that viewers may feel for the show—whether first-time watchers or seasoned fans.
“You can look at this Web site and really get up to speed on the show,” says Sony Pictures Television Senior VP of Marketing Alan Daniels, who helps manage the Seinfeld site. He won't disclose how many unique visitors check out the site each month but says it is in the hundreds of thousands.
EverybodyLovesRay.com, dedicated to a certain CBS comedy, gets between 500,000 and 700,000 page views each month, according to Mike Dennis, director of Internet services for syndicator King World Productions.
“We try to create sites that reflect the content of the show,” Dennis says.
The Everybody Loves Raymond site has several tongue-in-cheek videogames, including “Ray's Great Escape,” a Pac-Man knockoff in which players guide Ray Romano through a maze in his home, avoiding goblins in the form of his kids and other family members.
“You are instantly reminded that this is a very funny show,” says Dennis.
Carsey-Werner's site for That '70s Show offers visitors a chance to play ping-pong—and, between serves, see messages urging them to watch the syndicated strip.
But Web sites for syndicated shows aren't just about building loyal viewers; the sites also can be used to move product. Seinfeld.com makes it easy to browse the contents of DVDs from the show's first three seasons, linking to the spot where they're sold on SonyStyle.com. The Seinfeld site is already promoting the DVD set from the show's fourth season, although it won't go on sale until the middle of next month.
Before studios started looking to the Web as a key marketing tool, cross- promotion of television reruns and videos was pretty much limited to TV ads during the show.
“It has opened up a whole new interactive world,” says Daniels, “and given us an opportunity to communicate with viewers that we never had before.”
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