*Universal's Browser Goes Hollywood

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Universal Pictures is expected to announce today a one-year deal with NeoPlanet Inc., a developer of enhanced browsers.


The two already have combined forces to create "The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas" Web browser, which launched earlier this month. Other similar movie-themed browsers will follow in conjunction with Universal Pictures theatrical and DVD releases, including the upcoming "Nutty Professor" sequel.


The browsers, which can be downloaded onto a user's PC desktops, function as a navigational tool for the Web much like Internet Explorer, AOL 5.0 or Netscape. Once the browser is downloaded, a logo icon appears on the desktop allowing for easy access to the Web for consumers.


<img src="/images/Image9a.gif" width="234" height="254" align="left">Universal Pictures is looking to the browser as a way to reach the online movie-going audience on a regular basis as well as to build lasting relationships. "It gives us the opportunity for our brands or movies to live on someone's desktop for the life of the property," according to Kevin Campbell, vice president of new media marketing at Universal Pictures, Los Angeles. "We think that the online audience is really important to our marketing mix. Any tools we can use to engage the online user we're certainly going to explore."


From a promotional standpoint the browser offers the advantage of repetitively displaying branding messages via the icon that sits on the desktop as well as through the home page that is served up when a consumer logs onto the Web. "A Web browser is something Internet users use every single day. With a Web site you visit it and it's fun, and you leave and it's over," said Campbell.


From the home page, Universal will be able to cross-promote other upcoming movies and DVD releases in the same genre. For example, users of the Flintstones browser will have a link to the site for the upcoming "Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" movie.


New features will be added on a regular basis to keep the browser compelling, Campbell said. The NeoPlanet technology allows Universal to remotely update the browser to place new ads and promotions and update channels on the home page.


Before users download the browser they are asked to fill in a short demographic profile with the required fields being age, ZIP code and e-mail address. This helps Universal to build a database of moviegoers. Additionally, consumers can opt-in to receive e-mail messages about upcoming releases. This information also allows the company to serve rich media pop-up windows regarding upcoming movies and special offers to the user's browser based on their age and zip code.


All of the Universal browsers will likely feature custom movie sounds and images, channel navigation (including direct links to Universal online content), a search engine, e-mail, customizable "skins" that allow users to change the look-and-feel of the browser and Macromedia Flash 4 Player.


NeoPlanet, Tempe, AZ, also has deals with New Line Cinema and USA Networks. The NeoPlanet application is approximately 2MB and requires Windows 98 or Win 95/NT with IE 4.0 or higher.

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