MTV boots up deal with HP

'Meet or Delete' part of unique pact

MTV will air episodes of the MTVU series “Meet or Delete,” an unusual partnership between Viacom and Hewlett-Packard that ups the ante in the marriage between advertisers and televi-sion networks.

Net in September and December will air the opening and closing half-hour episodes of the nonscripted series, in which teenagers seek out friends and even swap lives based strictly on the content of their hard drives.

Intervening four segs will be shown on college-oriented multiplex MTVU.

Move is part of a large and unique partnership between MTV and HP.

In addition to the U.S. rollout, locally produced series will unspool on nets and new-media platforms around the world, including versions in Asia, Europe and Australia. A total of 36 epi-sodes will be produced and aired globally.

HP is helping to finance the episodes in return for exposure on the show, which will feature HP prominently as participants use the company’s products.

“Meet or Delete” actually aired this season on MTVU, but in a much more modest form; half the number of episodes were produced, there was little international production, and HP’s in-volvement was minimal.

Pact demonstrates what activists at outfits like the Writers Guild deride as an increasing coziness between networks and marketers that they say threatens creativity.

But reps for the show said the branding would be seamless.

“A lot of companies are trying to do branded content that consumers aren’t allergic to,” MTVU spokesman Jason Rzepka said. “We think this is a perfect example of that.”

Show’s aim is to use the devices of reality television to “expose how we all have a lot more in common than we realize, and how PCs reflect our shared connections,” MTV press material states.

If the pact increases net’s reliance on Madison Avenue, it also points up how marketers can help smaller webs like MTVU produce series that would otherwise be beyond their budgets.

HP, meanwhile, will be able to mine traditional forms of entertainment to push its marketing message — an appealing prospect as more usual forms of marketing lose their effectiveness.

The Silicon Valley firm is targeting MTV’s younger demo as part of its “The Computer Is Personal Again” campaign.

Execs said the series will help the computer manufacturer change how it is perceived among young people: After the first season aired, it said, more than half the viewers surveyed reported they were now likely to buy an HP product.

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