'Idol' Goes Virtual Via Habbo

"American Idol" is about to enter the virtual-world space - can a Sanjaya avatar be far behind?

On Jan. 30, the Fox ratings juggernaut will launch an "Idol"-branded locale within Habbo, one of a handful of increasingly popular virtual worlds aimed at teens. The virtual world within a virtual world will serve as headquarters for the tween-girl-heavy community's collection of Idol fans, hosting various contests and special events during the show's 2009 run. Appearances by former Idol contenders are also possible.

The "Idol" virtual world will be free to Habbo members, and thus the show's production firm FremantleMedia Enterprises plans to seek third-party sponsors. However, Habbo will also dispense and sometimes sell a variety of virtual "Idol" goods to users, adding a potential second revenue stream.

"This goes well beyond the typical product placement deal," said Teemu Huuhtanen, president, North America, Sulake Inc., Habbo's parent company. "We see this as a really groundbreaking thing that hasn't been done before."

Habbo was viewed as a good match with a core the show's constituency -- teen and tween girls.

"We've had some pretty groundbreaking partnerships in the past, but we've never done anything in the virtual world space," said David Luner, svp, interactive and consumer products at FremantleMedia N.A. "We just thought it was an incredible opportunity to extend our reach."

Habbo reached 3 million unique users in the U.S. this past November, according to comScore.

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