NBCU Plays On - Multichannel

NBCU Plays On

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NBC Universal is hoping to make the mouse rather than a joystick the preferred weapon of video-game fanatics.

The broadcast and cable TV programmer plans to move aggressively into providing Web and mobile-based video games linked to popular shows such as Heroes from NBC and Monk from its USA Network cable service.

The video-gaming effort is part of an overall strategy to leverage the company’s brands in the digital and electronics space, according to NBCU president of integrated media Beth Comstock. This is of the main reasons why the company felt it necessary to take a centrally located booth at and produce programming directly from the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show last week.

As the first broadcast partner of the CES, the network produced live broadcasts of NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams from the show floor.

“Quality content like NBC Universal produces is intrinsic to the consumer-electronics industry and to selling its devices,” such as personal computers, DVD players, digital video recorders and portable media players, Mark Lukasiewicz, vice president of digital media for NBC News, said in an interview with Multichannel News last week at the show.

“At the end of the day, these devices are a tool to enable people to do things in their lives, and increasing one of the things they’re doing is consuming and interacting with content,” said Comstock, who spoke to MCN last week from NBC Universal’s CES booth.

The company will look to draw some of the 200 million U.S. video game users to the USA Network, Sci Fi Channel, Bravo and NBC Web sites and mobile offerings through the development of puzzle and skill games based on popular shows and their characters such as the obsessive compulsive detective Adrian Monk from USA Network’s Monk.

Comstock said the mostly free games would generate revenue through advertiser sponsorship. USA Network for example has already secured signed closeout retailer Big Lots as sponsor for its “Character Game Lounge,” on www.usanetwork.com which features 20 original games based on characters from its original series like “Psych Concentration Game,” in which users must match pairs of similar pictures while being timed.

Other companies, like credit-card company, Capital One sponsor individual games, such as “Three Card Monte,” in which the company’s logo and products like auto and home loans are featured prominently on the cards.

Since launching in November, USA’s Character Game Lounge already represents 25% of all traffic to USA Network’s site, and in December drew some 3.5 million page visits, according to Chris McCumber, USA’s executive vice president of marketing, digital and brand strategy.

Comstock also said the network will look to form more Internet and television partnerships such as its ambitious Hulu online video joint venture with News Corp.

The service, which Comstock said was born at last year’s CES, offers broadcast-quality content from both companies and will launch later this quarter. She added that consumer feedback from the beta tests have been “fantastic,” although she would not reveal specifics.

The network also announced it will work with Microsoft to deliver more than 3,000 hours of live and on-demand programming from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing via the NBCOlympics.com Web site. Microsoft’s MSN online network will feature links to the site, as well as exclusive content from the games.

“You can’t look at the consumer electronics space without understanding how content and technology work,” Comstock said. “You’ll see more NBC content available on more formats in 2008.”