'American Idol' headed to Habbo

Fremantle inks deal to bring hit series to virtual world

SAN DIEGO -- FremantleMedia Enterprises, the brand extension arm of FremantleMedia, has inked a partnership to bring the "American Idol" brand to the Habbo teen-centric virtual world.

The licensing deal marks the first time "Idol" will have its own branded area within a virtual world and provides Habbo with in-world merchandising and sponsorship rights for the popular brand.

David Luner, senior VP interactive and consumer products for FME North America, stressed the partnership will not involve creating avatars based on either the contestants or the judges.

"It's not a replication or duplication of the show, and we're not looking to find a virtual Idol," he said. "Instead we're letting the Habbo users experience the 'American Idol' brand in a deep, rich and unique fashion."

FME has already done a successful promotion with Habbo in France for "Nouvelle Star," that country's version of the singing contest. "This deal is specific to the U.S., though if it's successful it may create some opportunities to do some regionalized versions around the world," Luner said.

Habbo will be releasing branded "Idol" virtual goods such as microphones and posters that can be purchased with Habbo coins, so this will have some revenue-generating potential for FME.

Habbo has 3 million North American users. Teemu Huuhtanen, executive vp and head of North America for the Sulake Corporation, parent company of Habbo, noted, " 'Idol' is huge already in Habbo, and we hope that this will lead a lot of 'American Idol' fans that haven't been to Habbo before to actually try us out."

The partnership won't be promoted on-air, but Luner said, "We'll definitely be leveraging all of our off-air means, including our Web site, our newsletter and our existing partners and licensees for cross-promotional opportunities."

He also stressed the "American Idol" presence within Habbo won't end with the conclusion of the current season. "The main hype will take place during the season, but after the show ends we always have our press tours, the album release, and our audition process," Luner said. "We end up going year round, and there's constant chatter, and Habbo is a great way to support that interest."