It's 'Lights, Camera, Action' for Revamped

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.'s famed lion now roars from an upgraded Web site packed with rich media and streaming media features to encourage repeat visits and turn that traffic into consumers of MGM content.

The redesigned site at has an array of departments, including tabs on the home page for movies, television, trailers and clips, shopping and an area called Backlot.

“There was none of this Backlot content and it was static, very straightforward,” said Juliann Jannus, senior vice president at, Santa Monica, CA. “The new site much more integrates all of the properties, is much easier to navigate and it's got deeper content.”

The Backlot area incorporates a multimedia database and original programming. Using the site as a platform to gauge new characters' potential, original content can be spun off into movies or TV series.

The use of short-form videos and trailers to promote movies and TV series is another role of the site. Site visitors can read interviews of directors, actors and crew. Using ongoing content to create return visits is a challenge for studios, which typically get visitors coming to their Web sites to find out about a particular movie.

“There is so much that the site offers for just general movie lovers that we can just continually keep brand awareness about MGM high on everybody's radar,” said Lea Porteneuve, executive director of corporate communications at MGM.

Another expectation from the site is to build the online member database. Numbering several hundred thousand, this database comprises e-mail addresses of MGM consumers who subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

In fact, e-mails to this important constituency as well as PR and ads on Howard Stern’s radio show are the only forms of marketing MGM has undertaken to spread the word about the site's makeover.

The changes also are an attempt to create a one-to-one dialog with customers. In the coming months the site will use Net Perceptions' Movie Lens software for a movie recommendation service.

Jannus said the software will allow visitors to rate MGM films based on a scale of 1 to 5. Then, as the software learns the user's preferences, its ability to recommend films that the consumer might enjoy will improve.

“And then there'll be a wireless application for that too,” Jannus said. “So if you're in the video store and looking for a movie, you can go to your personal profile and say, 'Okay, what would I like?' and it'll give you recommendations.”

“We, in turn, can use that information to get a better finger on the pulse and what the demand is like in the marketplace, and to better market specific titles for that consumer,” she added.

Although the site has an online store whose tab is displayed on the home page, fears of antagonizing MGM's retail channel arguably have held it back from bolder measures.

Still, the MGM online store stocks a vast array of its merchandise, including videos of active releases and the famed James Bond franchise. Jannus said her division is evaluating ways to better market merchandise directly to consumers from the site. But she adds that e-commerce is not the primary driver behind

“It's mainly promotionally driven,” Jannus said. “The benefit to the company is to the businesses of the other divisions. To give information out to the public so that they go to the movie theater to see a movie, that they buy a video, rent a video, watch the television series.”

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