IQ News: Ford Drives into Deal With New Online Net

Digital Entertainment Network (DEN), Santa Monica, Calif., is in final negotiations with Ford Motor Company to have the Detroit automaker be the sole auto sponsor on its Internet television network, slated to launch in May. The charter sponsorship, said to be worth several million dollars, will be a year-long deal.
DEN plans to create a Web-based network of TV-style original programming, to be delivered free and on-demand over 56K modems.
The company was founded in 1996 by Marc Collins-Rector and Chad Shackley, co-founders of early ISP Concentric Networks. In June 1998 they produced Chad’s World, a series of eight dramatic shows aimed at gay teens. That July, David A. Neuman, former president of Walt Disney Television, came aboard as president, along with Ed Winter as chief marketing officer and Jim Ritts as chief operating officer; Winter and Ritts are veterans of Channel One Network, the in-school ad-supported television network.
DEN’s new programming will extend the original teen niche concept. “The Internet is about virtual community,” Winters said, “so we define our target audiences by the highest common denominator, identity, affinity or interest. We’ll target Christian teens, Hispanic teens, Asian American teens, extreme sports enthusiasts [and] college students.”
Ford plans to use DEN to launch its new Focus car, which was named European Car of the Year, as well as promote the popular Mustang and Cougar. “We see DEN as a terrific youth portal that we can use to market our key youth product,” said David Ropes, director, corporate advertising and integrated marketing for Ford. “We have lots of products we can target to this youth market.”
Thirty half-hour interactive pilots are in production by DEN staff and independents, while the sales staff builds in the sponsorships. “It’s a shotgun wedding between the interactive types and the traditional producers,” Neuman said.
DEN offers a variety of advertising opportunities, many of them based on proprietary technology. They include corporate billboards, TV-style ads, product placements, rich media banners, traditional ads and e-commerce links for buying products featured within shows.