Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PULSE Is Tapped Into What Drives the $190B Teen Market


Technology Reveals What Teens Really Think; Only PULSE Predicted the Huge American Idol Upset

PULSE revealed that:

iPods are talked about 13 times more often than Zune, but the kids with Zune are just as happy with them;

Pepsi is talked about 3.5 times more often than Coke and the positive polarity is twice as high;

iPhone dominates the space with 4 times more conversation than the Blackberry and positive polarity 50% higher than Blackberry; and

Nike is discussed 3 times more often than Adidas and teens like their Nikes.

PULSE has access to unfiltered and unbiased teen digital conversations and is being co-developed by Fortune 500 consumer brand, advertising and communication companies.

SYOSSET, NY, Jun 29, 2009 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- ECHOMETRIX, Inc. /quotes/comstock/11k!ehmi (EHMI 0.11, +0.02, +15.79%) announces the launch of PULSE, a real-time digital content platform that reveals the truth driving the $190 Billion teen market.

PULSE is a proprietary software engine that reads digital content from multiple sources across the web, including: instant messages ("IM"), blogs, social environment communities, forums, and chat rooms. PULSE analyzes the sentiment, and delivers the unsolicited raw conversations in real time. It gives marketers immediate, unique information about what teens are saying in their own words -- real, usable information that is not being revealed in traditional market research. PULSE reveals the positives and negatives -- about a product, a brand, a trend, an entertainer, a movie, a TV show, an athlete, a retailer, and more.

The unmatched ability to get inside privileged IM chats positions PULSE as a far more accurate predictor of the teen mindset.

In fact, PULSE predicted the American Idol upset more than twelve hours before the votes were announced!

On the morning of May 20, the day of the American Idol finals, the PULSE database revealed equal volume of conversations about the two finalists, Adam and Kris. PULSE accurately predicted an upset contradicting all the industry pundits. PULSE showed the tonality of the conversations about Adam had turned significantly negative two weeks preceding the finale.

PULSE knew about the new Xbox product, Natal, nine days before it was publicly announced. That is when PULSE revealed that teens began describing it as "outrageous" and started the viral talk about Natal pricing and distribution tactics.

"The PULSE is the only way to get real market intelligence in the digital world of teens," said Jeffrey Greene, CEO. "Asking teens questions doesn't get you the real answer. Pulse is an invaluable marketing tool because it reveals exactly what kids are saying while they are saying it."

"The power of the PULSE platform gives the marketing decision makers daily, real-time insight into the consumer's mind in a unique and actionable manner. This will be a profoundly important tool to all marketers as we fully enter the digital age. Ignore this tool at your own peril," said Peter Sealey, Echometrix Chairman and former Chief Marketing Officer for Coca Cola.

About Echometrix

Echometrix /quotes/comstock/11k!ehmi (EHMI 0.11, +0.02, +15.79%) is a leading developer of opinion mining and sentiment analysis applications for user-generated digital social media content. We specialize in delivering brand metrics, real-time market intelligence and consumer market research for the teenage consumer segment. For more information, www.echometrix.com

iPhone Apps for the Miley Cyrus Set

Many of Apple’s advertisements for the iPhone application tout services for business people, college students or harried urbanites looking to save time. But a look at the applications people are actually buying reveals a different demographic.

For the past two weeks—it was dethroned this weekend—the #1 application has been a game called Sally’s Spa, whose main customer seems to be the type that would get carded trying to sneak into a PG-13 Miley Cyrus movie. Place cucumbers over someone’s eyes for a faux facial! Tap your fingers across the screen for the perfect manicure! Paint toenails (“piggies”) and then open a second location in Banff!

The goal of the game is to keep customers circulating through an imaginary spa, dropping money on various treatments until they run out of cash. If the service isn’t fast or skilled enough—watch out how long a client is in the sauna!—the spa cannot upgrade for more treatments or new exotic locations.

A review from Gamezebo sums up the application’s nuance: “[It] features a lot of nice graphical details…whether it’s the way the cute old couple (who have to be moved to each station as a pair) share a kiss after paying, or watching a customer’s face recoil in horror if you pluck their eyebrows wrong, or the way they sink into the bath with delight if you give them the right bath bomb.”

At 99 cents, down from an original price of $4.99, the game has “done millions in sales” said Steve Shatford, president of GamesCafe, which designed the program. Apple prohibits him from revealing the total number of games sold, but he said that for every day an application is in the top ten it can have tens of thousands of downloads.

And the audience isn’t necessarily exclusively the Bat Mitzvah set. “We’ve had requests from people saying, ‘I can’t stop my husband from playing my game,’” Shatford said.

User reviews seem to back him up.

“I’m a guy and I’m not gay but this is soooooo addicting[sic] I recemend[sic] this app fir[sic] guys that are bored and not gay,” wrote user delaromen.

“I work so hard to keep all my customers happy and love it when they say ‘aaahhh,’” wrote Pjbee.

As of this weekend, though, the boys—at least those who won’t admit to enjoying a simple hot stone massage—were fighting back. Hero of Sparta, a Zelda-like fantasy game, cut its price to less than one dollar, relegating Sally and her seaweed masks to #2.

Walkman More Cumbersome than iPod, Teen Discovers

by Margaret Lyons
Original Post: Entertainment Weekly

Ah, youth. A British 13-year-old test drove an old-ass Sony Walkman instead of his iPod this weekend, and lo, the results were comical.

"From a practical point of view, the Walkman is rather cumbersome, and it is certainly not pocket-sized, unless you have large pockets," he writes. Truth! (Though as the years wore on, Walkmen did shrink down a bit.) But it gets better: "It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape," writes the tech-savvy youth. He creates his own version of "shuffle" "simply by holding down 'rewind; and releasing it randomly." Except any one-time Walkman owner knows that's dancing with the devil.

"I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don't have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, 'Walkmans eat tapes.' So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day." Worse than being musicless for the day, pal, is losing that tape forever. Also, don't store tapes near nickels. Man, the good old days.

As cumbersome as the Walkman was compared to the iPod (or other MP3 players), it was still much better than portable CD players which never, ever stopped sucking.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Study Sees Fatalism Behind Some Risky Teen Behavior

Original Post: LA Times

A sizable number of teens may take chances 'because they feel hopeless and figure that not much is at stake,' a researcher says.

Chicago -- Nearly 15% of teenagers think they are going to die young, leading many to drug use, suicide attempts and other unsafe behavior, new research suggests.

The study, based on a survey of more than 20,000 young people, challenges conventional wisdom that says teens engage in risky behavior because they think they are invulnerable to harm.

Instead, a sizable number of teens may take chances "because they feel hopeless and figure that not much is at stake," said study author Dr. Iris Borowsky, a researcher at the University of Minnesota.

That behavior threatens to turn their fatalism into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Teens who thought they would die early were seven times more likely than optimistic teens to be subsequently diagnosed with AIDS. They also were more likely to attempt suicide and get in fights resulting in serious injuries.

Borowsky said the magnitude of teens with a negative outlook was eye-opening.

Adolescence is "a time of great opportunity and for such a large minority of youth to feel like they don't have a long life ahead of them was surprising," she said.

The study appears in the July issue of Pediatrics, released today.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Teenagers Are Building Their Own Job Engine

Laura Durst, 18, of Woodstock, Conn., created a Web site
that helps teenagers who want to work from home. She earns $250 a month from ads.


PERIODS of high unemployment tend to be particularly hard on teenagers, who wind up competing for jobs with more experienced, laid-off adults.

When Faith Borden, 16, of Metuchen, N.J., applied for a job in March to be a counselor at a summer day camp, she looked around and saw “all these 30- and 40-year-olds,” she said. “Usually it’s just teenagers.”

She also applied at pizza restaurants, drugstores and most of the stores at her local mall, and even attended a job fair in Edison, N.J., but didn’t receive one offer. So she decided to work for herself, selling Avon products.

Also facing a competitive job market, Max O’Dell, 14, of Cary, N.C., started Smiley Inc., a custom T-shirt design business. He paints shirts in his driveway and hangs them in the garage to dry; revenue so far has been $170.

“Business is very steady, and I would much rather work for myself than at a fast-food place or something like that,” he said. “It feels really good to be my own boss.”

Unemployment for 16- to 19-year-olds is at its highest rate since 1992 — at 22.7 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is causing some teenagers to rethink their notion of work and to embrace entrepreneurship.

“This is a generation raised to believe they can do anything, and the first to grow up with entrepreneurial celebrities like Steve Jobs of Apple and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google,” said Donna Fenn, who interviewed 150 young entrepreneurs for her forthcoming book, “Upstarts: How Gen Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success.”

Many teenagers have also seen the turmoil in the auto industry and layoffs of parents or other adults. They no longer associate financial security with big corporations, Ms. Fenn said.

In a survey conducted by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship in December 2007, 4 out of 10 people from the ages of 8 to 21 said they would like to start their own business in the future.

But that might reflect youths’ aspirations more than reality, said Scott Shane, an economist and a professor of entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a contributor to The New York Times’s small-business blog, “You’re the Boss.” “The percentage of the population becoming entrepreneurs is actually declining,” he said. “It’s true today that people are more likely to say they want to be in business for themselves, but that may reflect their attitude more than their behavior.”

Still, interest in entrepreneurship education among teenagers is rising. The Distributive Education Clubs of America, or DECA, which provide high school and college students with training in marketing, management and entrepreneurship, says it has found a 20 percent increase this year in interest in its entrepreneurship events.

Amy Rosen, chief executive of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit group that provides entrepreneurship education in low-income communities, says her organization has more inquiries from school districts than it can serve and has been overwhelmed this year with applicants for its spring-break and summer camps.

“These kids are concerned that the world their parents grew up in no longer exists and the notion of taking control and owning your own future is really appealing,” Ms. Rosen said.

The Internet may be the most significant catalyst for teenagers’ entrepreneurship. The ability to start a business online has lowered many barriers to self-employment faced by young people — you need only a domain name and a Web site to set up shop and are largely anonymous to customers, who never have to know your age, said Alan Lysaght, co-author of “The ABCs of Making Money for Teens.”

There is also an abundance of information online about starting a business.

Laura Durst, 18, a recent high school graduate in Woodstock, Conn., in the state’s northeast corner, said that there were so few jobs for teenagers there that two years ago she began setting up a Web-based business, WorkInMyRoom.com. It provides teenagers with information and online resources to find jobs that can be done from home.

Ms. Durst said she was inspired by her mother, who also is an entrepreneur. “Seeing her work from home, where she could be her own boss, I liked the idea of that,” she said.

Ms. Durst’s revenue comes from advertising. She uses Google Ad Sense — which displays relevant Google ads on her site — and earns money when users click on them. She says she is making about $250 a month.

TEENAGERS start a wide range of businesses, Mr. Lysaght said, from selling art, jewelry or collectibles online to Web site creation and design. “They also do non-Web-based things like yard work, house cleaning, dog walking, pool care, tutoring and party planning,” he said.

In addition to the money they are earning, teenagers say entrepreneurship has made them more mature. Max O’Dell said he could now relate when his father talked about his own work, and Ms. Borden said she has learned how to speak to adults as an adult. “I feel like this experience is getting me ready for the real world,” she said.

Nickelodeon's 'AddictingGames Showdown' Announces Top Online Games as Voted by the Public

SAN FRANCISCO, June 28, PRNewswire

The "envelopes" were opened and the best games named during Nickelodeon's "AddictingGames Showdown" (Saturday, June 27, 8-10 p.m. ET/PT), the first-of-its-kind convergent, prime-time TV event honoring the coolest, funniest and most addicting games. More than 5 million votes were cast for the cream of the crop from AddictingGames' library of 3,500 games. Honors went to games in 10 different categories, including: "Best Game From Planet Random" - Tattoo Artist; "Greatest Escape Game" - Escape the Car; "Mostest Edumacational Game" - Magic Pen; and "Most AddictingGame" - World's Hardest Game.

"Congratulations to the winning games and the developers who created them. We applaud the innovation and creativity of everyone involved in creating such phenomenal online games," said Dave Williams, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Nickelodeon Kids and Family Games Group. "'The AddictingGames Showdown' was born from our knowledge that our audiences are experiencing their entertainment on multiple platforms, so we combined their biggest online activity--gaming--with TV."

Hosted by iCarly's Jerry Trainor, the "AddictingGames Showdown" was created to spotlight the booming online games industry, which grew 23 percent in 2008 and now reaches 86 million players according to comScore. The winners were announced on TV and on the "AddictingGames Showdown" microsite which drew 16 million game plays and 26.5 million page views since its launch on June 3, 2009.

"The AddictingGames Showdown" winners include:

Most AddictingGame

World's Hardest Game
Developer: Snubbyland

Best Performance by a Monkey

Developer: Ninja Kiwi

Most Courageous Stick Figure Stunt

Electric Man 2
Developer: DX Interactive

Greatest Escape Game

Escape the Car
Developer: Afro-Ninja Productions

Best Game from Planet Random

Tattoo Artist
Developer: Gamepill Inc.

Your Mom's Favorite Game

Let's Get Cookin'
Developer: The Article 19 Group

Mostest Edumacational Game

Magic Pen
Developer: Alejandro Guillen

Best Performance by a Robot

Build a Robot 3
Developer: JackSmack

Most Adrenaline Pumping Game

Redline Rumble
Developer: Shockwave

Poppiest Pop Culture Game

Baseball Juiced
Developer: Odd1 Inc.

AddictingGames, the number-one youth-targeted gaming site and one of CNET's top five gaming sites (December 2008), is the number-one place to reach Men 12 to 24 who are gaming online (source: comScore, May 2009). The site just had its best month ever with 11.9 million unique visitors (source: comScore U.S., May 2009). With 50 new games launching every month, AddictingGames provides games that are fresh, timely and relevant to pop culture.

AddictingGames is part of the Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group portfolio of digital sites, which serves kids, tweens and teens, and parents, and focuses on the pre-eminent activities that its audiences participate in online: games, social networks and community, and video. Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group's portfolio of digital sites ranks as number one in all key metrics with 28.8 million monthly visitors; 122 million total visits; 1.7 billion page views; and 78.1 minutes for average time spent per visitor, according to May's comScore Media Metrix.

Nickelodeon, now in its 30th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, online, recreation, books, magazines and feature films. Nickelodeon's U.S. television network is seen in more than 98 million households and has been the number-one-rated basic cable network for 14 consecutive years.

Website: http://www.addictinggames.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tween Designers Hold Runway Show w/ Celeb Cred

Posted by: Martinne Geller

Television shows like “Project Runway” and “The Fashion Show” feature a host of ambitious designers angling for their big break. Last weekend, a Manhattan middle school took the amateur fashion show to a whole different level.

Featuring outfits designed during seventh- and eight-grade art classes, Manhattan Academy of Technology (P.S. 126) put on a real runway show, which was hosted by Stacy London, from the TLC network’s instructional fashion program “What Not to Wear”.

Dresses were the most popular design, but ranged in style from casual sundresses to metallic-sheened party dresses to an asymmetric gown. Two even featured recycled materials.

For these talented 12 to 14 year olds, one thing seems clear. If they keep it up, they could make a killing come prom time.

Emma Watson Eyes Her Own Fashion Line


Though she was barely 10 when she landed the now-legendary role of Hermione Granger in the ever-popular Harry Potter series, 19-year-old Emma Watson has certainly done some growing up of late, especially in regards to fashion.

The proof is in the upcoming spread for Teen Vogue's August issue, where she poses in platform Burberry boots, overflowing tulle dresses, and hot leopard tights. Oh, the interview also mentions that she's been wearing so much Chanel lately that she's become friendly with Karl Lagerfeld. (Oh is that all it takes? Sheesh, we'll get right on it!) "'It's kind of my lucky brand,'" she explains to Teen Vogue, though she also highlights other brands she's been wearing like Miu Miu and under-the-radar U.K. talent William Tempest.

It's this kind of of fashion savvy that's gotten her a lot of press in the industry, most recently for becoming the face of Burberry (we tracked down images of the new campaign here). She's taking over the mantle from serious modeling talents like Agyness Deyn and Kate Moss, so clearly the gal's got chops. (Or maybe Burberry was just trying to beat Karl to the punch.)

And now, there are rumors that the dewy star will be launching her own fashion effort--a clothing line geared toward stylish teens, and is seeking advice from high-profile style pals, like the aforementioned Lagerfeld. Granted, this rumor apparently started on News of the World, which isn't always the most reliable, but if the rumors are true, we're pretty excited to see the results. A fashion endeavor by a starlet that's both timely and age-appropriate; Well played, dear Watson.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nielsen Report: Teens More “Normal” Than You Think Regarding Media Usage


It’s 2009: Do you know where your kids are?

They might be on the Internet, or gaming or texting… but they could also be be watching live TV, listening to the radio or reading a newspaper. At the annual What Teens Want conference in New York, The Nielsen Company presented How Teens Use Media, which argues once you look past the hype - American teens are not as alien in their media usage as you might expect. Sure, it might sound hip and trendy to suggest they’re too busy texting, Twittering or LOL-ing to be engaged with traditional media, but ultimately, the research proves otherwise.

“The media experience is broadening for all consumers, not just teens,” said Nic Covey, director of insights for The Nielsen Company. “Looking at our research across markets and media, we see that, contrary to popular assumption, teens are actually pretty normal in their usage, and more attentive than most give them credit for.”

The comprehensive report combines insights from Nielsen’s global resources in Television, internet, mobile, gaming, moviegoing, radio, newspaper and advertising research to debunk myths and provide the hard facts around how teens use media.

Key Takeaways

  • Teens are NOT abandoning TV for new media: In fact, they watch more TV than ever, up 6% over the past five years in the U.S.
  • Teens love the Internet … but spend far less time browsing than adults: Teens spend 11 hours and 32 minutes per month online. Far below the average of 29 hours and 15 minutes.
  • Teens watch less online video than most adults, but the ads are highly engaging to them: Teens spend 35% less time watching online video than adults 25-34, but recall ads better when watching TV shows online than they do on television.
  • Teens read newspapers, listen to the radio and even like advertising more than most: Teens who recall TV ads are 44% more likely to say they liked the ad.
  • Teens play video games, but their tastes aren’t all for the blood-and-guts style games: Just two of their top five most-anticipated games since 2005 have been rated “Mature.”
  • Teens’ favorite TV shows, top websites and genre preferences across media are mostly the same as their parents: For U.S. teens, American Idol was the top show in 2008, Google the top website and general dramas are a preferred TV genre for teens around the world.

For additional insights, download a free copy of How Teens Use Media


A JoBro on The Hill: Jonas Bro Invades DC, Befriends Old Men

Nick Jonas and His Home-State Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey
Frank Looks Like A Tween Girl; Nick Looks Confused

The singer Nick Jonas traveled to Capitol Hill today — minus the two brothers who appear with him in performances that make pre-teen girls swoon.

What brought him to Washington was the fact that he has Type I diabetes; the renewal of federal funding for research into the disease was the subject of a hearing today before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The hearing also featured celebrities who appeal to different demographics: the retired boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard and the actress Mary Tyler Moore, chairwoman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

But it was the Jonas visit that “set young hearts aflutter in Congress,” according to one committee member, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. And, indeed, as the 16-year-old singer left the hearing, he was ambushed by a gaggle of teen-age girls wanting pictures and autographs.

(Another person with the same disease — Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — has caused less of a stir on her recent visits to meet with senators who will vote on her confirmation.)

Type 1 Diabetes, which often begins in childhood, can lead to heart disease, nerve damage and blindness. Diabetes is fatal if untreated, and patients must monitor their glucose levels and treat high levels of blood sugar with insulin replacement therapy.

Mr. Jonas said in an interview that he thought he was going to die when he was first received the diagnosis but he said he has been able to manage the disease.

“It’s one of those things that doesn’t affect every moment of your day, but when it does, it’s the worst timing possible,” he said after the hearing. “It’s a day to day battle and you have to take it one step at a time.”

Nick Jonas, right, joined the boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Dr. Griffin Rodgers and the actress Mary Tyler Moore to testify about Type I Diabetes before a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Teens Want - Starts 2day in NYC: C U There :-)

JOBRO NEWS: Jonas Brothers Talk About Outgrowing Teen Pop in New Rolling Stone

If the Jonas Brothers‘ first moment on the cover of Rolling Stone found them reaching the height of teen pop stardom, their latest — on stands this week — finds them pushing for an even loftier goal: musical credibility. (Click above for exclusive footage from their new RS cover shoot.)

“I think we are working to make that trade without having to give anything up,” Kevin Jonas tells Rolling Stone in our cover story. (Check out photos from their Rolling Stone cover shoot here.) “But I think it will take time, because of where we came from. I would honestly say to anybody, if you were in a band like us, you would take advantage of those platforms too. It’s easy for people to say, ‘No, I’m a real rock & roller,’ but I think you do what you’ve got to do.”

Our Jenny Eliscu spent time with the brothers in Los Angeles as they prepared to hit the road in support of their most ambitious album yet, Lines, Vines and Trying Times. The album, the tour and much of what the band does these days seems designed to help facilitate the leap from teen pop to contemporary rock. It’s a challenging feat that few have pulled off. (Check out our look at artists who managed to outgrow their pop roots.) But the brothers are working hard on what they know will be a long, slow march to credibility. Eliscu found Nick on point as the band’s creative lead, putting their touring band through their paces (his brothers have started calling him “Mr. President”), while Kevin helps to steer the Jonas business and image (he even built a foam 3-D scale model of the band’s new stage set, which now takes 180 people to assemble at each show).

“We have an operation around us that we run,” Kevin tells Rolling Stone. “It’s not run for us, or dictated to us. Everything that we do, we sign off on.”

But even with a strong operation and a lot of hard work, the band knows that teen idols rarely make the leap to “serious artist.” “Personally, I’m not in the band to say, ‘Hey, you need to respect us, take us seriously,’ because that’s kind of stupid,” Joe tells RS. “We’re doing it because we love it, and we don’t care what age group we attract. If they like our music, they like our music, and if they don’t, fine. We don’t need you like our music.”

Jenny Eliscu’s Rolling Stone cover story, “Boys to Men,” is on newsstands now, and click here for Rolling Stone’s essential Jonas Brothers coverage.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tween Girls Growing Target for Game Makers

By Gerard Campbell; Source: Stuff.co.nz

The recent E3 gaming convention wasn't just about hardcore games. It was also about appealing to casual gamers and tweens, a valuable market for video-game makers.

Teens and casual gamers - those players who don't play games regularly - are proving big money for video-game publishers, and it's something that's not lost on the major players in the industry.

Publishing giant EA showcased a line-up of games aimed at tweens at its press conference, front and foremost being Charm Girls Club, a collection of games in complete contrast to the other testosterone- fuelled titles offered by the company such as Army of Two: 40th Day, Dante's Inferno and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Charm Girls Club will come in versions that feature American proms, pyjama parties and malls, and one of the mini-games featured is speed hair teasing, sure to appeal to the tween in your house who has a love affair with hairspray, hair straighteners and a hair brush.

Sony, too, is trying to appeal to the young girl demographic, by announcing a lilac-coloured PlayStation Portable to go with Disney Interactive's game Hannah Montana: Rock Out The Show (this announcement seemed to get a huge amount of applause, but I'm sure it was just gamers taking the micky), and Nintendo, too, is targeting the tween, with its Nintendo DS game, Style Savvy, where girls can create their own fashion boutique and garments.

It also announced WiiFit Plus, the follow-up to WiiFit, where fitness buffs can personalise their routine and customise exercises. "It's Brain Age (another Nintendo game) for your backside," said Cammie Dunnaway, Nintendo USA's executive of sales and marketing.

Music games were also big at this year's E3, with the latest versions of Rockband featuring The Beatles and Lego characters, and Activision showing off a game called DJ Hero, where you get to be the DJ spinning the discs at the party.

At Microsoft's press conference, Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr appeared on stage pimping Rockband: The Beatles, which features their virtual likenesses and 45 of their songs. You'll also be able to buy game controllers modelled on their instruments and be able to download more songs in future.

Starr seemed to say he loved the game and it looked great, while McCartney commented "who would have thought we would have ended up as androids".


Monday, June 22, 2009

Rich Ross Had a Mouse Ear for 'Tween' Talent

As Disney Channel president , Rich Ross led TV's pursuit of the 'tween' audience, creating wildly popular personalities as well as programs that have muscled their way into mainstream culture.

By Dawn C. Chmielewski

As the Jonas Brothers took the stage at the Dallas Convention Center on Nov. 18, 2006, the group had little to sing about.

The band's advocate at Columbia Records had left and the label was dropping them. Few gigs loomed on the horizon. But the crowd at the Radio Disney 10th anniversary concert was oblivious to the Jonases' travails. As the group sang "Year 3000," a hit on the station, the audience responded with shrieking enthusiasm.

The reaction caught the attention of Disney Channel President Rich Ross, who had been listening to the performance backstage.

"He ran up to me and said, 'I've never seen anything like this in my life. I want you to know they could be so big,' " recalled Kevin Jonas Sr., the boys' father and manager. "To this day, I look at that moment as the turning point for the Jonas Brothers."

The Jonases, who now boast two platinum albums, their own Disney Channel show, "Jonas," and a 3-D concert movie, are among the youthful stars who owe their big break to Ross, the man who could be called the father of "Tween TV."

Since his arrival as senior vice president of programming in 1996, Ross has transformed Disney Channel from a cable television backwater that ran old films and educational fare into a reliable profit engine for the Walt Disney Co.

But more than that, he led TV's pursuit of the 9-to-14-year-old "tween" audience, creating wildly popular personalities and shows that not only dominate the age group's attention but have muscled their way into mainstream culture: Hilary Duff as "Lizzie McGuire," Miley Cyrus as "Hannah Montana," the "High School Musical" movies and now the Jonas Brothers.

Ross targeted a void in children's television -- the yawning gap between Tigger, Pooh and the Disney princesses, and innuendo-laced prime-time shows. Before Ross' efforts at Disney Channel, no network courted the age group, which influences roughly $43 billion in spending annually.

"They existed. They weren't programmed to," Ross said. "They were either forced to slum off younger stuff or watch what their parents thought was inappropriate." In creating programming for those viewers, Ross helped launch the careers of many of today's most celebrated figures in young Hollywood, including Shia LaBeouf, Zac Efron and Cyrus. He hopes two rising Disney Channel stars, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, will succeed Cyrus as tween phenoms.....

TV Teen Shows Inhabit Another World

By Ellen Gray: Philadelphia Daily News

MAKE IT OR BREAK IT. 9 tonight, ABC Family.

NYC PREP. 10 p.m. tomorrow, Bravo.

Few Teenagers, I suspect, learn much about their actual lives from watching television.

Assuming they're watching at all.

Their younger sisters (and some of their brothers) may be trying to read their futures in the activities of Nickelodeon's "iCarly" or Disney's "Hannah Montana," but by the time they've left middle school, they'll probably have moved on, much the way I abandoned Seventeen magazine years before turning 17.

Moving on may mean the CW's "Gossip Girl," where money confers a quasi-adult status on amazingly dressed adolescents, or MTV's "The Hills," where young adults behave like adolescents.

But for 12- to 17-year-olds it's even more likely to mean ABC Family's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," which in its first season set ratings records in that much-targeted demographic with the story of a 15-year-old named Amy (Shailene Woodley) who loses her virginity and gets pregnant in the same night.

And it happens at band camp.

Created by Brenda Hampton, whose "7th Heaven" boasted some of the least-believable teens ever on TV - as well as the largest audiences on its youth-oriented network - "Secret Life," which begins its second season tonight, reflects Hampton's fascination with sex and its consequences.

Amy's far from the only one who's taught a lesson in this show, which also seeks to make things uncomfortable for her warring parents (Molly Ringwald and Mark Derwin) and just about everyone else in her life.

Ringwald, who in real life is expecting twins this summer, won't be spending the season standing behind the couch holding a basket of laundry, Hampton having chosen to use the tools at hand to make it work, even if it means Amy's new baby's soon going to have an aunt or uncle for a playmate.

There is nothing in me that can say that "Secret Life" is a good show, or even a good-for-you show, but I can understand why kids whose media diet's been saturated with sexual images since early childhood might be attracted to a parallel universe where bad behavior's punished more often than it's celebrated.

I'm weirdly attracted myself, if only because "Secret Life" 's characters do and say such unexpected things - whether it's a 15-year-old boy proposing marriage or a sexually active girl advising a friend to hang on to her virginity - that there's seldom a dull moment.

Or, OK, a genuine one.

ABC Family, whose motto, "A new kind of family," clearly seeks to separate the cable channel from its Pat Robertson roots, is erecting a big tent for younger viewers, with shows like "Greek" and "Lincoln Heights" as well as "Secret Life."

Among its summer offerings: "10 Things I Hate About You," a series based on the hit teen-movie takeoff on "Taming of the Shrew"; "Ruby & the Rockits," a rocker-family series starring David and Patrick Cassidy (with brother Shaun getting the story credit); and "Labor Pains," a movie starring Lindsay Lohan, of all people, as a screwup of a secretary who fakes a pregnancy to avoid losing her job.

Another series, "Make It or Break It," which premieres tonight, follows the fortunes of a small group of female gymnasts, would-be Olympians for whom pregnancy's probably less of an issue than puberty.

Chelsea Hobbs stars as Emily Kmetko, a girl from the wrong side of the gymnastic tracks who, in the tradition of every sports movie from "Rocky" to "The Cutting Edge," has been given a shot at the big time.

Not that that's going to be easy, as the politics of the sport threaten her dream almost immediately.

There's very little that's unexpected in "Make It," including the obvious editing of the gymnastics performances.

But Emily's a tough character who's easy to root for.

And though many of the show's grown-ups aren't very grown up, "Frasier's" Peri Gilpin, who plays the mother of two other gymnasts, does a nice job of showing someone trying to do the best for her kids, not just herself.

Certainly I'd rather see a kid of mine tuning in ABC Family's altered reality than Bravo's latest unpleasant exploit-fest, "NYC Prep."

Bad enough that "The O.C." begat MTV's "Laguna Beach" (which begat "The Hills"), and "Desperate Housewives" inspired an entire franchise of angry, table-tipping women on Bravo.

Now, thanks to a collection of well-off New York adolescents whose parents really should have known better, the NBC Universal-owned cable network's out to convince us that those kids from "Gossip Girl" are real.

As if anyone would want them to be. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.


Eddie Van Halen Goes After Nike Over Shoe Design

by Jennifer Ernst Beaudry
From WWD
Photo: Cohen/WireImage

Eddie Van Halen wants Nike to stop running with the devil.

Reps for the Van Halen rocker’s company, ELVH Inc., filed a cause of action for copyright infringement Friday in Los Angeles Federal District Court against Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike.

ELVH alleges that the design of certain Nike Dunk Low styles infringe on the copyright the company holds for the red-white-and-black-striped pattern Van Halen made famous on his “Frankenstein” guitar — and for which the musician has held the copyright since 2001.

Citing “irreparable harm and damage,” ELVH is asking for the impoundment and destruction of all the shoes in question, as well as all profits from the sale of the shoes and damages.

As previously reported by Footwear News, Van Halen released a line of men’s high- and low-top sneakers featuring the Frankenstein design earlier this spring though licensee New Jersey-based FEA Merchandising, a company specializing in recording-artist merchandise.

Lawyers for Van Halen said they had no comment beyond the filing, preferring, they said, “to try cases in court.”

In a statement provided to FN by a brand spokesperson, Nike said it was aware of the lawsuit but did not believe it to have merit. “Based on the information provided to us, we have not infringed on any rights held by Mr. Van Halen,” it said. “Nike’s Dunk shoe design is not substantially similar to any of the Van Halen designs, and Nike has not referenced the ‘Van Halen’ name or image as part of any marketing campaign or promotional material associated with the shoe.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aeropostale Opens First P.S. Store, Aiming At 'Tween' Market

By Andria Cheng: Wall Street Journal

A floor-length mirror with a built-in camera allows a shopper to take her own pictures and see them displayed instantly on screens. Text messages such as "You look GR8 :)" and "Luv U" are printed on the wall.

This is what's going on at P.S. from Aeropostale, the new store by New York-based teen retailer Aeropostale Inc. (ARO) targeting kids 7 to 12 - a demographic commonly referred to as the tweens, and younger than the namesake chain's 14- to 17-year-old core customers. The merchandise assortment of graphic T-shirts, jeans and dresses is similar to the concept's 900-store sister chain with some exceptions, such as school uniforms for the elementary-school crowd.

After 13 straight quarters of record profit growth and 11 consecutive years of rising sales at stores open at least a year, Aeropostale's stock has more than doubled this year, outpacing pricier rivals such as Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (AEO), as well as each member of the S&P Specialty Retail Index group. The new store, according to Chief Executive Julian Geiger, is a key part of Aeropostale's strategy to sustain its momentum.

"This is a real business with huge sales and profit potential," Geiger said in an interview at the P.S. store's opening at Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y. Aeropostale plans to open 10 P.S. stores this year with the goal to open more than 500, expanding its share in what he described as an underserved $14 billion market. "We are very confident we can grow this brand prudently but aggressively over the next decade."

Analysts said it's too early to gauge the store's growth potential, located near shops such as Tween Brands Inc.'s (TWB) Justice chain, Gap Inc.'s (GPS) GapKids.

"From the store environment they've hit it," said retail consultant Customer Growth Partners' Craig Johnson, who was among one of about 30 analysts at the company's opening. "It creates something fun for kids to stay in stores longer. It's mom-friendly. But I'm not convinced that this can go to 500 stores. The jury is still out."

Like other retailers such as No. 1 discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Aeropostale (known for its promotions such as two T-shirts for $20) has benefited from the economic downturn that made shoppers more budget-conscious, favoring stores perceived to have lower prices.

Geiger said the company's success isn't just recession-driven and far beyond a "value story." Over two years ago, he hired industry veteran and former Victoria's Secret (LTD) executive Mindy Meads as president and chief merchandising officer, who has cut the stock-keeping units by 30%. They've concentrated on better selling styles and revamping merchandise, including adding sparkles or sequins and new fonts to graphic T-shirts.

"We are moving away from the follower to being more relevant in a timely manner," Meads told MarketWatch. The new P.S. store carries 35 design finishes for graphic T-shirts, for example.

After lagging for more than two years, Aeropostale's profit margins started to outpace that of either American Eagle or Abercrombie & Fitch, with sales per square foot sharply accelerating since the third quarter, according to research firm Retail Metrics.

At the Palisades Center, while American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch each had either clearance or big sales signs, the Aeropostale chain didn't have any additional discounts on top of its regular promotions.

Not-So-Low Rise

To make sure the jeans are more acceptable for moms to buy for their 10-year olds, P.S. hiked their rise by about one inch
compared with the older Aeropostale chain, to make them less "risque," Meads said. She added it took 18 months of work to get ready to open, hosting events and focus groups, as well as finding out whether existing customers wouldn't be turned off with the company opening a sister chain.

"The store looks really good and different relative to competition," said Standard & Poor's analyst Marie Driscoll. "It looks a little grown-up and more sophisticated. It's really what the younger kids want. They want to look like their older brother and sister."

The company also has been remodeling some of its namesake shops, adding full-body mannequins, replacing metal hangers with wooden hangers and stocking items such as spring scarves to be more on trends. Its design and merchandising team is constantly in airports, amusement parks and train stations, shopping competitors' stores and seeing fashions from Europe to make sure it's got what its teen customers want, Geiger said.

"There used to be a gap in pricing and in fashion" between Aeropostale and its competitors, pointed out analyst Eric Beder of Brean Murray Carret & Co. For instance, the retailer's prices are on average 20% to 30% below that of American Eagle, he said. "The fashion quotient has really improved."

Eleven-year old Annie Rogers from West Point, N.Y., has noticed the difference. With her mom and her sisters, ages 13 and 6, the family just came out of the Aeropostale store with bags of T-shirts, shorts, camisoles and flip-flops - spending a total of $130.

"Whenever we come, we see new clothes now," Rogers said, adding she wants to check out the P.S. store so she doesn't have to worry about scouting out the extra-small sizes at Aeropostale. "They have more styles. I like the clothes and how they look on me."

-By Andria Cheng, 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com

Survey: Many Teens Use Phones in Class to Text or Cheat

In the survey, 26% of teens admitted that they use their phones
to store information to look at during a test,
and 25% text-message friends about test answers.

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

One-fourth of teens' cellphone text messages are sent during class, a new survey finds, despite widespread classroom bans on cellphones at school. The survey of 1,013 teens — 84% of whom have cellphones — also shows that a significant number have stored information on a cellphone to look at during a test or have texted friends about answers. More than half of all students say people at their school have done the same.

Only about half of teens say either of the practices is a "serious offense," suggesting that students may have developed different personal standards about handwritten information vs. material stored on cellphones, says pollster Joel Benenson. "The message about doing those kinds of things on the cellphone may not be reinforced the same way," he says.

The poll found that teens send 440 text messages a week on average — 110 of them during class. That works out to more than three texts per class period. The findings also reveal a split in perception between teens and parents: Only 23% of parents whose children have cellphones think they are using them at school; 65% of students say they do.

Benenson conducted the online poll in late May and early June for Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based education company. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


Robert Pattinson Hit By Taxi While Running Away From Fans

By Michael Roberts and Helen Kennedy

NY Daily News

Tween girls across the planet can breathe a big sigh of relief: "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson was unhurt after being clipped by a cab Thursday in Manhattan.

The dreamboat actor was barely grazed, a representative told the Daily News.

Robert Pattinson on location for "Remember Me" on the streets of Manhattan on June 15, 2009.

The London-born model and actor - a tween phenom for his portrayal of romantic 108-year-old vampire Edward Cullen in "Twilight" - had been inside filming his new movie "Remember Me."

Trying to duck a crowd of screaming teen girls waiting on the rainy sidewalk, he ran across the street for his trailer when a taxi grazed his hip, RadarOnline said.

Pattinson reportedly stood still for a moment, appearing stunned, as a bodyguard yelled at the girls: "You see what you did, you almost killed him!"

"The reports are exaggerated," said Vivian Mayer, a spokeswoman for the film production company.

"It was not caused by his fans. Production continues."

The new film co-stars Emilie de Ravin, the Australian actress who plays Claire on "Lost."

Pattinson, who was just dubbed "Most Handsome Man in the World" by a landslide vote in a Vanity Fair online poll, has been mobbed all over town during filming.

Fans using Twitter to pinpoint his location swarmed him Monday. He had to be rescued by bodyguards who pulled girls off him.

The situation is so dire that teen fan magazine J-14 launched an online petition Thursday to "protect Rob Pattinson!"

"We know, we wish we could spend every moment with Rob - and knowing where he is at all times definitely makes it feel that way. But there is a point where it goes too far," the magazine said.

"Let's all bond together to protect Rob."



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pacific Sunwear selects ex-Vans chief to be CEO

By Andrea Chang
Los Angeles Times

Gary H. Schoenfeld brings surf-and-skate experience to PacSun, which has been losing money.
Teen specialty retailer Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. named former Vans Inc. CEO Gary H. Schoenfeld to its chief executive post Wednesday.

Schoenfeld succeeds Sally Frame Kasaks, who has served as CEO of the Anaheim retailer since 2006 and as board chairwoman since 2007. Pacific Sunwear said Kasaks wasn't pushed out from the top job and would remain a director.

Schoenfeld, 46, will take over as chief executive June 29, the company said. He had a nine-year tenure at Vans, ending in 2004, and later became co-CEO and president of Global Brands Group.

In an interview, Schoenfeld said he hoped to make Pacific Sunwear "once again a favorite place to shop" by expanding the chain's brand mix, attracting new customers and promoting the surf-and-skate lifestyle. Although he said he was enthusiastic about the company's long-term prospects, he also noted its recent revenue problems and the challenging retail environment.

"The company has had declining sales trends and hasn't been profitable for some time, so we've got some work to do," he said.

Kasaks took the CEO job amid hopes that she would boost the retailer's sagging sales. During her tenure, she increased offerings for teen girls and closed the company's footwear division.

But the chain has been hammered by the recession in recent months as consumers cut spending.

In January, Pacific Sunwear announced widespread cost-cutting measures. Last month the company reported that sales at stores open at least a year fell 18% in the first quarter compared with a year earlier.

Mitch Kummetz, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., said Schoenfeld's experience would help him lead Pacific Sunwear in a new direction.

"Gary's strength is understanding the action sports market and understanding the teen consumer," Kummetz said. "He's got a solid background."

Pacific Sunwear stock closed at $3.20, down 5 cents, before the management change was announced. In after-hours trading, the stock was little changed.

The company operated 927 stores in 50 states and Puerto Rico as of May 2.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iowa Teen Wins Text-Messaging Championship

By Kimberly Chou
Article Source: Wall Street Journal

After the tears (and there were tears), texts and frantic thumb work, Kate Moore, 15 years old, came from behind to win the best-of-three finals round of LG’s U.S. National Texting Championships Tuesday.

Ms. Moore, from Des Moines, Iowa, beat Morgan Dynda, 14 years old, for the $50,000 prize by being first to text an error-free modified chorus from “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Ms. Dynda was in New York for a second straight year to compete for the texting title, which began as a promotional campaign for LG’s cellphones three years ago.

“I’m just, like, completely stunned right now,” Ms. Moore said. “You’d never think a girl from Iowa would win something this big in New York.” Minutes earlier, she had joked about buying Coach purses and “a pony” if she won.

Over two days in a TV studio made up to look like an arena, the competition whittled 21 finalists down to the two teenagers. Over five rounds, contestants texted phrases on LG-distributed phones — no iPhones or other handsets allowed — while jumping obstacles on a treadmill, enduring heckling and while blindfolded, the latter inspired by a Harris Interactive study in which 42% of teens said they could text with their eyes shut.

The text trials were tense, even without the emcee repeatedly noting the tension. Family members and the finalists eliminated earlier in the day yelled and whooped for their favorites, and the winners from 2007 and 2008 went head-to-head to warm up the crowd, like homecoming queens returning to pass on the crown (and compete for a 50-inch LG plasma TV).

LG representatives said that more than 250,000 people competed this year, with online competitions testing speed and accuracy, “text-ins” during MTV programs, and live qualifying events in cities around the country.

“It’s gone from an event with nice PR legs to a program with real continuity,” said Tres McCullough, co-founder of ad firm Fathom Communications, which worked with LG on the event.

Next up? Global competition. Ehtisham Rabbani, LG’s vice president of product strategy and marketing, said the company is planning for a “mobile world cup” in the fall, with winners from the U.S., Korea, Brazil and other countries participating.

U.S. winner Ms. Moore got teary on the brink of elimination — Ms. Dynda won the first round and finished first in the second round, though a mistake on her part kept Ms. Moore’s hopes alive. At the end of the finals, as the confetti guns exploded and Ms. Moore’s phone vibrated to confirm her win, tears came full force — from her, her mother in the audience and apparently her dad back home (whom Mom called, not texted, with the news).


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

'Twilight,' 'High School Musical 3' dominate Teen Choice Award noms

No surprises here: The young-adult vampire phenomenon Twilight scored 12 nominations for the Teen Choice Awards, including actor and actress in a drama, and drama itself (up against Slumdog Millionaire, Angels and Demons, Obsessed, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The Disney franchise pic High School Musical 3 garnered 10 nominations, as did The CW's Gossip Girl. Miley Cyrus nabbed 10 nominations all by her lonesome, one more than the hosts of the show, the Jonas Brothers. The Teen Choice Awards will air Monday, Aug. 10, at 8 p.m. Eastern on Fox.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cartoon Network's Non-Animated Push Comes With Risks

By Alex Wepri:
Broadcasting & Cable

Turner-owned network know they risk alienating their core audience, a big gamble in any environment...

A ghost-hunting show following a team of paranormal investigators, a reality series about outdoor novices exploring the jungle and a game show set aboard a fast-moving roller coaster. While the premises sound like something you might find on Discovery Channel, it is actually Cartoon Network that will be rolling out those shows.

And while the network is betting its new live-action slate will help redefine the channel as a destination for youth culture, executives at the Turner-owned network know they risk alienating their core audience, a big gamble in any environment.

'Is this appropriate?'

“Anytime you do something new at a network, particularly at one with a very specific niche, there will be a reaction. People will say, is this appropriate?” says Cartoon Network Chief Content Officer Rob Sorcher. “We are doing something that is very different than anything in the nearly 20 years of history of the channel. It is possible that this is going to take a while.”

The new shows will air on Wednesday and Saturday beginning June 17. They include ghost-hunting program The Othersiders, outdoor survival show Survive This and original concepts such as Destroy Build Destroy.....


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Disney's Zeke and Luther Seeks Young Male Viewers



TORRANCE, Calif. — Hannah Montana and Sonny With a Chance have made the Disney Channel a lure for young female viewers. But what about young males?

The company is looking to cable channel Disney XD, a revamped version of the Toon Disney cable channel, to reach boys 6-14 years old.

The channel’s newest series, Zeke and Luther, starts tonight. It joins live-action series Aaron Stone and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, plus animated fare such as Spider-man, Iron Man and X-Men, in the quest to reach young male viewers.

Zeke and Luther follows two best friends who have decided they want to become world-famous skateboarders. Their quest means mastering complicated tricks, entering competitions and taking a road trip to their idol Tony Hawk’s childhood home.

An abandoned newspaper building in this Southern California community is home base for the show, where the cast and crew recently worked on upcoming episodes, including a scene featuring a collision between a pair of skateboarders and a large bus.

“Cut! Great. That was really good but I would like to do one more,” says director and series co-creator Matt Dearborn to Hutch Dano and Adam Hicks as they rise from the pavement. The stars of Zeke and Luther smile and return to their prone position near the bus.

The bus scene is for the last episode for the show’s first season. The cast and crew have been tolling away for months, not knowing whether the show will be a hit or a miss with the coveted young male audience.

The show’s creators do have some sense of what works. Dearborn, along with Tom Burkhard, created the hit Disney series Even Stevens.

“There has been a lot of pressure because you are just trusting all of your instincts and if your instincts aren’t in line with the general public you are bound to make a bigger mistake,” says Burkhard. “But, I am pretty confident what we have going is a really funny, real kid friendly, action-packed comedy.

“It is about putting funny kids in front of the camera.”

They’re putting those kids in front of cameras far away from the Hollywood hub.

Many of the sets, along with the show’s production offices, are located in what was once the home for the city’s Daily Breeze newspaper. It’s been a perfect location because the building is large enough to house the production, plus the show has been able to shoot in various local locations in the neighborhood.

More important than finding the location was picking just the right cast, especially for the characters of Zeke and Luther.

“Comedy aside, skating aside, stunts aside, it is a show about friendship. These guys will be on opposite sides of an issue but in the end friendship will always come through,” Burkhard says.

Before the cameras roll again, Dearborn discusses with Dano a last-minute change for the scene. This is Dano’s first professional acting job but he’s well aware of how the business works. His grandfather, Royal Dano, was an actor. And his father, Rick Dano, a veteran actor, is playing the bus driver in this episode.

Between scenes, Dano talks about the long process of landing the job.

“It was about three or four auditions and then chemistry tests with Adam Hicks and other people going up for Luther,” Dano says. “I got the call that I had booked it. Then we shot the pilot, they tested it and we finally got picked up. It was the greatest thing.”

It helped that Dano brought some skateboarding skills to the role. The surfing enthusiasts like to skateboard when the waves aren’t right. So, whenever the pair are seen on the street they are doing their own stunts. When it comes to the more elaborate tricks — any time the skateboard leaves the ground — the insurance company prefers that stunt doubles are used.

Even with those limitations, Hicks calls the role “the greatest job that has ever been created. We come to work and do what we love to do: acting, skateboarding. We are never bored.”

Unlike his co-star, Hicks has been acting for years including a role on the series Titus. He was also in The Shaggy Dog and How to Eat Fried Worms.

Whether they get back on their boards to grind out another season will depend on how many young male viewers find the new series as much fun.


Friday, June 12, 2009

MTV Widens Its Net : The network aims to turn a British model into a Web star

Wall Street Journal

Teens have been fleeing television for the Web. MTV is betting that British TV host Alexa Chung, a 25-year-old former model, will help bring young viewers back to the tube.

MTV is positioning “It’s On with Alexa Chung,” a live on-air music show, as the heir to “Total Request Live,” a long-running show that ended last year. Her new program will run weekdays at noon starting June 15. “I’m used to being on the hangover slot,” says Ms. Chung, who typically appeared on Saturday during the day on the U.K.’s Channel 4.

The star of MTV’s coming Web-driven music show “It’s On with Alexa Chung.”

To try to make Ms. Chung a star in the U.S., MTV plans to make her show a mash-up of television and Web content. The show will draw some of its material from social-networking sites like Facebook and video-sharing sites like YouTube. The show’s executive producer Corin Nelson says “It’s On” will do things like have celebrities turn the text of some viewers’ Facebook profiles into songs and stream in questions from viewers via Twitter.

“We just really want to make sure there aren’t a lot of layers of filters so people feel like they’re part of the audience. They want immediate information, and that affects the show,” says Ms. Nelson.

“It’s On” is part of a larger trend of bringing more Web content onto traditional networks like MTV. This month, G4 launched “Web Soup,” a spinoff of the popular E! video-clip show “Talk Soup,” just days after Comedy Central started “Tosh.0,” helmed by comic Daniel Tosh. Both shows feature viral videos and Web content.

Raised in a small village in England in the county of Hampshire, Ms. Chung started modeling when she was 16 years old. Displeased with the loneliness and isolation of a modeling career, she nabbed a slot hosting the music show “Pop World” on Channel 4 and presented for shows on BBC and ITV. Ms. Chung has won fans for her breezy on-camera style.

Last fall, Tony DiSanto, head of programming at MTV, was passed a tape of Ms. Chung’s performances and called her in for a meeting in his office in Times Square.

Amidst the movie paraphernalia that dots Mr. DiSanto’s office, Ms. Chung homed in on a single item: a box set of MTV’s popular teen reality drama “The Hills.” Mr. DiSanto was sold on her point of view. “I knew we had a unique voice,” says Mr. DiSanto.

Although she has been featured in British tabloids and fashion magazines, Ms. Chung isn’t very well-known on the Web. Her personal Web site doesn’t get much traffic, according to ComScore, and Ms. Chung has around 18,000 followers on Twitter, a healthy number for most people but far fewer than many other TV hosts.

MTV hopes that television will propel her to stardom online. Ms. Chung says that her online presence isn’t the chief reason that she was hired. “It’s quite the opposite,” she says. “It just so happened that they knew about my Twitter page.”

Pulling content from the Web for a TV broadcast like Ms. Chung’s new show can create problems. It can be difficult to get legal clearance to air some music clips and images. Such issues have been stumbling blocks for other Web-based shows.

For example, if a YouTube video features music playing in the background, the network airing the clip might have to pay for its use—or face a legal challenge.

At “It’s On,” several people on the staff will monitor and approve tweets before they hit the airwaves to ensure that no inappropriate content sneaks through and makes its way on to the television broadcast. Ms. Chung says she hopes the process will help her show bring in a wide range of material.