Surfing for kids

Joins witdh Attitude to develop Net gain

Universal Studios Online has joined forces with Attitude Network, owner of leading Internet game site Happy Puppy. The two companies plan to launch an Internet site with content for kids. The studio said content will be drawn from its existing properties. The site will enable kids to interact with Universal characters, play games and chat online.

The as-yet-unnamed site will be launched this fall with advertising support. Attitude Agency, the ad sales branch of Attitude Network, will oversee sales for the joint venture.

Lisa Crane, marketing VP for the Universal Studios New Media Group, said the site won’t be in direct competition with Disney’s subscription-based kids site, Disney Blast. “We have no intention of going to a subscription model,” she said. “In terms of our content, our properties have their own fan base and already do well in other media.”

Properties that may be spun out for the Web include “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “The Land Before Time,” “Beethoven” and characters such as Woody Woodpecker and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Crane said Attitude Network originally approached the studio as a potential advertiser for the Happy Puppy site, which is already advertiser supported. Eventually, the two companies began discussing joint venture possibilities. Because Universal has developed CD-based game titles, such as “Crash Bandicoot,” the studio wanted to transfer that expertise to the Internet.

Attitude Network, Crane said, had already determined it wanted to do a kids Web site. Industry analysts forecast strong growth ahead in the kids online arena.

The site will be marketed in a number of ways, Crane said, including through a link from the main Universal Studios Web site. She said the project’s launch will tap into Attitude Network’s expertise in developing an online brand.

“They started from scratch in building Happy Puppy on the Internet. They went out with online and ‘analog’ advertising, went to the tradeshows, ran sweepstakes, and we intend to continue working with them on that type of successful marketing,” Crane said.

Universal said its current main Web site has increased its traffic sixfold over the past 12 months, and it expects to double that number in the coming year. Crane said the site’s traffic has increased since the studio aggregated all its content at one home page.

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