Hitting the Web Generation

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Cable operators struggle with ways to reach the coveted 12-to-17 demographic, a group that spends more time on the Internet than watching television. But music network Fuse believes it has created a tool to help funnel those surfers to its cable partners’ Web sites.

To attract those surfers, the Rainbow Media Holdings-owned network has created a Web site that teams music downloads, an exclusive blog by Mark Hoppus of the popular band Blink 182 and games. The site (www.justforthefofit.com) also gives visitors an opportunity to identify their cable operator.

Users are then redirected to that provider’s Web site, where the cable company gets a chance to pitch a product to the young consumer. The first affiliate to sign on for that functionality: Cox Communications Inc.

TEEN 'TECH OFFERS’

Given the amount of time they spend with technology, teen-agers are rapidly becoming the family’s chief technology officers, according to Joe Glennon, senior vice president of distribution for Fuse. Statistics culled from the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that 21 million 12-to-17-year-olds now use the Internet — 87% of that age group.

Half of those users download music, while one-third are looking for creative content online to use and to share with friends.

“F” is the theme, of the site, which is populated by a fat, blond, fugly fairy and a ferret. Those characters will figure in the viral marketing Fuse plans employ to redirect Web users to its microsite from such popular teen portals as Myspace.com.

Each department within the site begins with “f” even when it’s a stretch, such as the title of Hoppus’ blog (“F’n hi, my name is Mark”). Another one is “From your cable operator.”

In the case of the debut affiliate, when the user identifies Cox upon site entry, a Cox.net banner tops the site with a message from the cable operator’s own promotional character, “Digital Max” (Multichannel News, June 20, 2005), who says, “I’m here to rock your digital world.”

A viewer who clicks that banner is prompted to enter their ZIP code for information on local programming, as well as other tailored marketing messages.

“The site’s compelling design and meaningful proprietary content will help further our brand recognition and allow us to reach a broader audience of young adults who are responsible for much of today’s technology purchases,” said Steve Gorman, Cox vice president of high-speed Internet marketing, in a statement.

MULLEN MUSINGS

The new microsite isn’t the only change at Fuse. Catherine Mullen, the former MTV UK and Ireland general manager who was named Fuse’s executive vice president and general manager last month, said that for the first time, the network is working with two program-development teams.

The teams, based in New York and London, are charged with coming up with ideas for TV and Internet applications.

Fuse views itself as a tastemaker, and the programming ideas will center on informing viewers about what they’ll be interested in within the next six months.

Fuse will stay music-focused, Mullen stressed. “There are no plans to go lifestyle,” she said of the net’s content, and a reference to the programming leanings of MTV: Music Television.

Fuse will experiment more. “We can fail, but fail spectacularly” in developing innovative programming, the new chief said.

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