'Kate Modern' to help launch band


NEW YORK -- Atlantic Records is using Web-only series "Kate Modern" to launch alternative band The Days.

The British group, which recently signed with the Warner Music U.K. label, was featured last week in an episode of "Kate Modern," the U.K. spinoff by the creators of "LonelyGirl15."

Band members and music from The Days will appear in episodes over the next three months in the lead-up to the release of the group's debut album, "Evil Girls." The band will have a profile page on Bebo, where users can purchase music featured in three-to-four-minute Webisodes.

Bebo, the top-ranked social network in the U.K., hosts "Kate Modern" and brokered the Days deal, bolstering efforts to embed brands into its community in ways that go beyond standard advertising units. (In its first six weeks on the Web, "Kate Modern" scripts have included everything from Tampax to Buena Vista movies to Microsoft products.)

"This is really the future model around bringing brands into programming," said Joanna Shields, Bebo's president of international operations. "The CPM model has its limitations."

"Kate Modern" is mystery/adventure soap opera set in London, centered on the life of an art student named Kate and her three closest friends.

In past installments, characters have used Microsoft's Windows Live mapping product to find locations and Bebo uses it to plot out events, such as an art show it held last month.

The Days will have recurring roles in the series, culminating in a live performance by the band for "Kate Modern" fans.

Bebo and other social networks like MySpace are looking to turn their huge audiences and interaction tools into platforms for new forms of entertainment. (MySpace is co-producing a Web series with Hollywood veterans Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick called "Quarterlife.")

"Kate Modern" attracts over 200,000 viewers per episode, according to Shields, and the show has cumulatively gotten over 13 million downloads since its launch in July.

"These brands are having a difficult time reaching this audience on TV," said Shields, noting Bebo users visit the site, on average, for 40 minutes at a time. "It's a perfect place to reach them."

But such placements don't work with all brands, Shields admits.

"When we get it wrong, we hear about it," she said. "You learn, and you don't do it next time."

Bebo plans to expand on the product-placement model with "Sofia's Diary," a Sony Pictures-produced show launching this fall.