AOL goes for gold with 'Million Dollar Bill'


AOL will go from "Gold Rush" to more common currency for its next big Internet event.

Sources said that AOL has closed a deal for "Million Dollar Bill," an online program that will allow one user to earn the titular prize by matching the serial numbers on any $1 bill to the winning combination.

AOL declined comment.

Like "Gold," a Mark Burnett production, "Bill" is expected to be a heavily promoted showcase for a select group of blue-chip marketers still to be determined. Also like "Gold," it will involve other media partners and might have a TV component as well.

"Bill" is expected to be a key component of AOL's "First Look" presentation scheduled for April 17, when advertisers will get a sneak peek at the company's upcoming program efforts. "First Look" is being styled as an Internet upfront on par with what AOL CEO Randy Falco used to hold in his long tenure at NBC Universal.

AOL is stocking up on entertainment programming as Falco spearheads the drive for a greater share of advertising dollars online. "Bill" will be a big part of the push, projecting more than $20 million in commitments from advertisers. It is said to be a costlier production than "Gold."

Executive producers for "Bill" are Tom Mazza of Madison Road Entertainment ("Treasure Hunters") and Scott Stone of Stone & Co. ("1,000 Places to See Before You Die"). Details are still coming together, including a search for a host for the program.

AOL scored with Madison Avenue last year with "Gold," which signed on Best Buy, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola Co., T-Mobile and Washington Mutual for a series that drew nearly 5 million unique visitors, according to comScore. As with "Bill," "Gold" allowed contestants to field trivia questions that led to a $1 million windfall. Media partners ranged from CBS to TV Guide.

Also at "First Look," AOL is expected to announce a second season of "Gold." Still to be determined is when "Gold 2" and "Bill" will launch.

The program was sold by Michael Kernan at ICM.