Backstreet Boys' cyber egos ready to rock
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Tuesday August 22 02:06 AM EDT Backstreet Boys' cyber egos ready to rock
By Chris Marlowe
LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- The Cyber Crusaders, Stan Lee Media Inc.'s (Nasdaq:SLEE - news) superhero versions of teen singing idols Backstreet Boys, will make their official online debut Sunday.
"We're excited to partner in owning a brand extension of the franchise as animated superheroes that were born on the Internet and then moved into other media," Stan Lee Media co-founder Peter Paul said. "This is absolutely a first."
The event at Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios CityWalk in Orlando will debut the first of 22 Cyber Crusaders webisodes and kick off an exclusive five-week promotion with the Burger King Corp.
"As far as we know, this is the biggest-ever offline promotion for an online franchise," Paul said. "It involves a $15 million ad campaign for five weeks and 12 million customers in 8,600 franchises."
Backstreet Boys' official Web site, the Backstreet Project, was first posted in February and has more than 1.5 million registered fans.
Stan Lee Media is producing the animation for the television spots. There will also be radio spots.
"Burger King says this is the biggest promotion they've ever done," Paul said. "There will be 40 million action figures, each with the Backstreet Project URL etched into it. And they're publishing 150 million collateral items like meal bags, tray liners and point-of-purchase displays." Three CDs and a video also will be part of the campaign.
This is the culmination of a deal that gave as much as 3% of Stan Lee Media to Backstreet Boys in exchange for an equity position of 35% of the gross profits generated by the franchise (HR 2/10).
"We're their only partners, so we're the beneficiaries of the Burger King deal," Paul said. "They paid in excess of $50 million to brand us, in effect."
The Cyber Crusaders characters were first seen in comic books that were sold in select outlets. "The comic book was a device we used to immediately communicate the franchise evolving through concerts, but it really began life as an animated episodic series," Paul said. "This is our first music brand that we are developing into a superhero brand."
Stan Lee Media owns the rights to the Web site and to its database of registered users. Recently added inducements to registering include free Internet service provided by Freeinternet.com's Private Label division, which will steer users to a Backstreet Project portal. And thanks to a deal with Homepages.com, Backstreet Portal members can create their own home pages using branded assets such as graphics and icons or use the licensed characters to create their own comic books that can be sent to other Net surfers via e-mail.
Negotiations are under way for television and direct-to-DVD deals, with similar future developments also planned.
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