Checkout this deal

Dot-com inks two-year pact with Launch Media

CheckOut.com is expected to announce today that it has paired up with Launch Media in a two-year deal that makes it the exclusive music, homevideo and vidgames e-tailer for the Internet music service.

Separately, CheckOut said it is hunting for real estate on Sunset Boulevard, Melrose Avenue or Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. It’s seeking to create a crowd-attracting venue to produce video and audio Webcasts of live music performances and celebrity chats for the site’s weekly hourlong Lounge offerings. Past Lounge acts have included Meredith Brooks, Motley Crue, Powerman 5000 and Melissa Etheridge.

The locale would be similar to the fish bowl studios from NBC, ABC and MTV in New York’s Time Square that enable pedestrians to view daily broadcasts. Once the venue is built, sometime before summer, CheckOut would most likely extend its Webcasts to several days per week.

That’s entertainment

Although mostly an e-commerce play, the deal with Santa Monica-based Launch signals CheckOut’s growing focus on entertainment content, expected to become evident as the site relaunches next month.

Beginning with its deal with Launch, CheckOut plans to convert its e-commerce offerings to Wherehouse Online Stores, a move in the works since the dot-com received a $20 million investment from Wherehouse Music and became the music retailer’s exclusive online seller of music, vids and vidgames for its 600 retail outlets.

That means that Launch’s e-tailing service will officially operate under the Wherehouse banner, with Launch receiving a cut of the profits.

CheckOut will serve as the umbrella company of the Wherehouse-branded store and content sites CheckOutMusic.com, CheckOutMovies.com and CheckOutGames.com.

“We’re trying to focus our energy on the content,” CheckOut.com CEO Richard Wolpert said. “We’re viewing CheckOut as more of an entertainment network.”

Selected portions of Launch’s own music content offerings (interviews, news, reviews), especially from its monthly CD-ROM music magazine, will be added to CheckOut’s individual music, homevid and games sections — sites that already feature more than 300,000 pages for artists, news, celebrity interviews and reviews.

Biz duet

In return, CheckOutMusic.com will become a partner site in Launch’s Online Music Group, where Launch’s sales staff sells advertising for its collection of Internet music sites. CheckOut will receive a percentage of the sales revs.

Launch does not receive an equity stake in CheckOut, but “we are going to be tightly tied together as partners,” Dave Goldberg, CEO of Launch.com, told Daily Variety. “For us this is huge. This is our first big e-commerce deal. We were the last major music site that didn’t have a deal with anybody. We’re married for at least two years.”

The deal with Launch furthers CheckOut’s already-inked content and e-tailing partnerships with RealNetworks, movie showtime source AOL MovieFone, online chat service Talk City, search service Scour.net and GameSpy Industries, among others, in the four months since bowing online.

The deals have so far been paying off for CheckOut.

“Some are working more for us than others,” Wolpert said. “But they’re all working for us in varying degrees. Each one gives us a different kind of customer.”

According to Media Metrix, CheckOut’s entertainment sites attracted 1 million visitors in December and averaged 8.4 unique daily page visits per person, besting sites MTV.com, E! Online and MP3.com.

“Pages per visit is the best metric to show that you have compelling and engaging content on your site,” Wolpert said. “This is a major milestone for our company so early in the game.”

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