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American Idol Goes Virtual Via Habbo

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American Idol is about to enter the virtual world space—could 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 a variety of contests and special events during the show’s 2009 run, as well as possibly appearances by former Idol contenders.

For example, Habbo members will be invited to participate in room design competitions during which they’ll use Idol-themed virtual merchandise.

The American 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 really groundbreaking thing that hasn’t been done before.”

For Fox and FreemantleMedia, Habbo was viewed as good match with one of Idol’s core constituencies—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, senior vp, Interactive & Consumer Products, FremantleMedia Enterprises, North America.  “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.