FremantleMedia Enterprises, which is the brand extension arm of American Idol co-producer FremantleMedia, will create an Idol-branded community within the Habbo virtual world, where teens chat with each other via cartoon-like virtual characters and decorate their virtual rooms. It will include in-world merchandise that Habbo residents can buy for real money. It should probably go over well, since Habbo surveys show that American Idol is the favorite show of Habbo members.
The new section of Habbo will open on Jan. 30 and will be free to enter for all of the 3 million U.S. members of Habbo. The partnership is the first that Fremantle has done with a teen virtual world and it chose Habbo because it’s the biggest virtual world for teens, said David Luner, senior vice president of interactive & consumer products at FreemantleMedia Enterprises.
American Idol and its show sponsors will post their signs and merchandise throughout the Habbo environment. They will hold events on stages and use spaces that resemble those in the show. Luner expects there will be a lot of interest in the space since teens are the biggest part of Idol’s audience. A third of all U.S. teens watched the debut of the newest season on Tuesday night.
The show will last about 20 weeks but Habbo expects to keep the area open year round. Each month, Habbo will introduce new events and merchandise. If it works, Luner said the partnership may be extended worldwide. Habbo has 11.5 million unique users on a worldwide basis and more than 121 million characters have been created. About 90 percent of its users are 13 to 18. They spend an average of 45 minutes on the site per visit.
FreemantleMedia is a subsidiary of broadcast company RTL Group of Europe, which in turn is 90 percent-owned by Bertelsmann AG. American Idol gets about 30 million viewers per episode and the voting generates as many as 78 million text messages. Freemantle co-produces the show with 19 Entertainment. American Idol, now in its eighth season, is valued at $2.5 billion.