Endemol courting Gen Web with 'hybrid entertainment'

Deal with EA invites fans' avatars

Reality TV producer Endemol announced Monday at MIPTV a major alliance with interactive entertainment software venture Electronic Arts that will allow viewers to create avatars of themselves and play virtual games online inside such global formats as "Big Brother," "Fame Academy" and "Deal or No Deal."

In a bid to attract the youth demographics that are abandoning television, Endemol chief creative officer Peter Bazalgette said the Virtual Me project will provide a strategic bridge for users keen on migrating to interactive environments.

"While for our purposes broadcasters are still our main customers, this is a strategic deal that will help us reach the younger audiences who are going elsewhere for their entertainment," Bazalgette said.

"Our business is entertainment funded by advertising, and it is logical to do more in this space," he added.

Under the arrangement, EA's cutting-edge avatar technology will be married with some of Endemol's most successful global television formats to give consumers a breakthrough way to meet, compete and socialize in online digital worlds.

Avatars will be "astonishingly lifelike" cyber clones, with uniquely customized appearances and identities, according to Gerhard Florin, executive vp and GM of EA International.

"With Virtual Me, we are at the forefront of a new hybrid form of entertainment that takes gaming beyond the console," he said. "Endemol is a great partner to help us bring together the best of TV and video games for an offering that can appeal to mass-market audiences."

The companies will create a joint team to share expertise in their respective fields and develop entertainment formats and experiences for a wide range of platforms, including TV and online.

EA is the creator of such video game franchises as "The Sims" and "Medal of Honor."