Muchmusic Show Trades on Convergence

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Melding fantasy gaming with original programming, Muchmusic USA next month will launch an ambitious new project that enables viewers to figuratively buy and sell music stars while previewing new artists and albums.

IMX: Interactive Music Exchange, set to launch Jan. 20, is a converged music-industry simulation game offered via the network's Web site (www.mmusa.tv). It will allow users to invest "IMX dollars" to buy, hold or sell the stock of chosen artists, albums and songs, said Muchmusic USA president Mark Juris.

The value of each artist will fluctuate depending on the Billboard music charts, radio airplay, concert sales or other real-life market variables.

To support the game, Muchmusic will air a daily one-hour show at 6 p.m., according to Juris. The IMX
show — which will feature a stock market-style ticker on the bottom of the screen — will recap the day's trading and provide real-time artists' market value and projections on future market hits and misses, he said.

The show will also feature live performances from current hit-makers and up-and-coming artists.

"The TV show will help accelerate game play as well as provide different, immediate games that are played with other viewers," Juris said.

Digital aid

Juris said IMX's union of broadband content and quality programming will help operators to better sell digital services to consumers.

IMX's launch is another way the Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.-owned network, currently in nearly 30 million households, is positioning itself as an alternative to MTV: Music Television and other Viacom Inc. music holdings. Muchmusic places a heavy emphasis on videos and covergence, with viewers and users, who help pick the songs in rotation on such shows as Oven Fresh, Dedicate Live, Soundtrack to Your Life
and Tastemakers.

"This is revolutionary in the way we're trying to evolve basic digital cable, really connect broadband with television and connect viewers who are not being served," he said. "There's a new generation of TV viewers who are used to manipulating media as entertainment. We're trying to be the first ones to get into the space of interactive gaming online, which helps drive broadband, as well as music."

Juris wouldn't predict how many users Muchmusic expects to draw to the game, but given the millions of video game users — including those who play fantasy sports games — he believes IMX will be very popular.

"IMX is like fantasy football, but with rock stars," he said. "This is a rich oil well in terms of entertainment value that no one has tapped, and there's no limit to how many people we can get involved in this."

Juris said the concept has already received accolades from music-industry executives who see IMX as an opportunity for fans to listen and experience new music, while providing more exposure to unestablished artists and record releases.

"It helps motivate and push great music," he said. "In a rapidly changing world, it's another way of helping [record studios] get out there and talk about their product and generate buzz."

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