New Line Television and ACTV Inc.'s HyperTV Networks unit
are betting that adding an interactive element to the upcoming pay-per-view release of Austin
Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me will have cable subscribers shouting, "Yeah,
The companies announced their deal -- an unusual alliance
between a movie distributor and an interactive-television software vendor -- last week.
HyperTV agreed to provide New Line with its convergence software, which will allow PPV
households with Internet-connected PCs to access features such as online chats and trivia
while watching the movie.
"We see this bringing in a couple of hundred thousand
additional [PPV] buys minimally," predicted David Spiegelman, executive vice
president of domestic television distribution at New Line Cinema. Spiegelman said he
thought the Austin Powers sequel would draw 2 million buys during its PPV window,
which runs from Jan. 1 to Feb. 29.
The movie generated $200 million during its box office
HyperTV president Bruce Crowley compared the audience
participation in the HyperTV-enhanced PPV movie to the participatory component of The
Rocky Horror Picture Show. Adding audience participation may spark repeat viewing --
another aspect of Rocky Horror.
"I think there is a real possibility for multiple
pay-per-view buys as a result of HyperTV enabling it," Crowley said.
New Line and HyperTV are targeting the 23 million
households with a television and a PC located in the same room, Spiegelman said. The
companies expect to draw a core demographic of 18- to 34-year-olds with a
"concentration" on 18- to 24-year-olds, he added.
HyperTV won't get a cut of the PPV revenue, but the company
will receive a percentage of advertising and electronic commerce revenue generated from
the enhanced version of the movie, Crowley said.
New Line plans to spend $750,000 marketing the PPV release,
Spiegelman said. The marketing effort includes a promotional campaign with AT&T
Broadband & Internet Services, in which each AT&T subscriber who orders the PPV
movie is offered a free Austin Powers key chain, he said.
In conjunction with Domino's Pizza, the company also plans
a local campaign with Media General in the Washington market, he added.
Here's how it works: PPV customers must download an
Internet browser plug-in for free from the Austin Powers Web site (www.austinpowers.com)
in order to view the interactive portion of the movie on their PCs.
To accommodate viewers who want to download the plug-in
shortly before the movie begins, Spiegelman said actor Michael York (who plays Basil
Exposition in the movie) will host a four-minute review of the first movie, Austin
Powers: International Man of Mystery, while a countdown clock runs.
The Internet component of the movie, which will include
streaming tidbits of Austin Powers trivia similar in approach to VH-1's popular Pop Up
Video, is timed to correspond to the action of the movie, Spiegelman explained.
For example, during the scene in which movie character
Scott Evil, the son of Powers nemesis Dr. Evil, appears on the Jerry Springer Show,
viewers using the HyperTV component will be asked, "Do you think Jerry Springer can
bring together the somewhat dysfunctional Evil family?" Spiegelman said.
Subscribers who download the HyperTV software will be
prompted to enter their ZIP codes. That will allow HyperTV to time the beginning of the
Internet component with the exact starting time of the movie.
"You'll never join in progress," Spiegelman said.
New Line will also sell banner ads for the enhanced portion
of the movie, Spiegelman said. Similar to ESPN's strategy with its "Enhanced
Television" Internet component for ABC's Monday Night Football, viewers who
click on a banner ad won't be linked to the advertiser's site. Instead, they'll be sent a
bookmark for the advertiser's site for future Web surfing.
The banner ads may also be timed to coincide with the
content of the film. For example, Dr. Evil's headquarters were located in a Starbucks
Coffee franchise, which creates a good banner advertising opportunity, Spiegelman said.
When subscribers see Dr. Evil's lair during the film, the
Internet component could run an ad offering viewers a coupon for a free cup of coffee at
Starbucks, Spiegelman said. He declined to comment when asked if New Line signed a
sponsorship deal with Starbucks.