MTV heads to 'Hills' with virtual site

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MTV is venturing from "Laguna Beach" to "The Hills" with the launch this week of its second virtual online community based on one of the network's TV shows.

"Virtual Hills" will replicate the Hollywood world that the show's cast members inhabit while allowing viewers to re-create their own virtual reality, meet other fans and associate with the cast, which for the first time will be involved in curating the experience online.

"It's a virtual reality that parallels the show and a doorway where fans can literally walk through and visit that space, and when the show is over, the space remains," said Matt Bostwick, senior vp franchise development at MTV Networks Music Group.

Available for free download at www.virtualhills.mtv.com, the show's cast members will be available to guide fans in creating their "in-world" story arcs and virtual experiences. For instance, the show's Lauren Conrad, with the assistance of her friend Whitney, will launch a fashion challenge, while fellow gal pal Audrina will host concert events. The show's talent will be represented as their own avatars inside the virtual reality.

The launch of "Virtual Hills" follows and is an extension of MTV's first virtual reality community, "Virtual Laguna Beach," which launched in September. Bostwick said that virtual community has 350,000 registered users, but more importantly, a high level of engagement. In the past week, the average time spent "in-world" per visit reached 46 minutes per user, without any on-air integration.

"We're going to do a whole series of integrations with content and shows," Bostwick said about future virtual realities tied to MTV's shows. "Each is going to establish a new piece of geography or subculture."
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