Webisodes fuel relaunch of Barbie's ex

Mattel is about to put the spotlight on Ken, the former beau of Barbie, giving the doll his own online reality series, “Genuine Ken: The Search for the Great American Boyfriend,” to be hosted by “The Hills” and “The City’s” Whitney Port.

The series, which bows exclusively on Hulu starting Jan. 18, will become the latest media property that showcases Ken after his high-profile role in Pixar and Disney’s “Toy Story 3,” this summer and now on DVD, and leads into next year’s 50th anniversary of the character.

A redesign of the Ken doll is in the works to go along with the recent launch of his Facebook page and Twitter feed, and he’ll have a bolstered presence in upcoming animated DVD movies. All of the activity is the first big push for the character since he broke up with Barbie on Valentine’s Day in 2004.

“He’s getting a makeover to make sure he’s still as culturally and visually relevant as Barbie is,” said Stephanie Cota, senior VP of Mattel Girls’ brands. “He’s getting a little work done to get ready for his 50th anniversary.”

Hudsun Media (Bravo’s “Pregnant in Heels”) is producing the reality show, which will unspool over eight 22-minute episodes. Once Hulu runs through the episodes, it will eventually be distributed to other dot-coms.

Hudsun CEO Michael Rourke and Max Benator, VP of digital for the shingle, exec produce with Lauren Stevens.

In the reality show, eight men between the ages of 21 and 30 will compete in a series of elimination challenges to prove that they possess Ken’s qualities in order to be “the ultimate boyfriend for every occasion,” including being able to surf, design, have a sense of fashion and show a romantic side.

Mattel said creating original content for the Internet is the latest entertainment effort, outside the TV shows, made-for-DVD features, videogames and events to get the Barbie brand in front of more consumers.

In this particular case, Mattel hopes to attract older auds to Barbie.

“With a 50-year history, you have people who have been embracing (Barbie and Ken) from day one,” Cota said. While those consumers may never buy another doll, they may buy a T-shirt with Barbie on it or a Ken-themed bow tie.

The digital series “is a great way for us is to have grownup girls and boys stay connected to the brand,” Cota added.

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