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Off-Net and Online

Web sites market sitcom favorites 4/10/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern

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.” 

October