"Seinfeld" hits the road to connect with new fans

Fri Sep 5, 2008 8:37am EDT
 

By Georg Szalai

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Stroll around Manhattan's Union Square these days, and you come across billboards touting the start of the fall TV season with promotions for the likes of "Heroes," "The Mentalist" and "Private Practice." But an evergreen -- the '90s hit sitcom "Seinfeld" -- has stolen the spotlight here, not with a billboard but with a bus.

The show may have ended its primetime TV run a decade ago, but Sony Pictures Television expects one of TV's most valuable franchises to extend its longevity in syndication, on DVD and in new media -- and now with a 26-city "Seinfeld Campus Tour."

The "Seinfeld" bus entertains with show memorabilia and video highlights. Fans can try out a "Seinfeld" DVD game and get their picture taken with cutouts of the show's stars. Crucial to reaching young fans is the presence of laptops that show off the MySpace and Facebook pages for "Seinfeld."

In a cross-promotional effort, visitors also have an opportunity to win Sony Video Walkmans and digital cameras by playing games with a "Seinfeld" twist.

"The show is every bit as compelling today as it was during its original run," said Robert Oswaks, president of marketing at Sony Pictures Television, which has the domestic rights to the show.

Sony wouldn't say how much it's spending on the bus tour, which started a few weeks ago, or what the financial benefit could be. But Oswaks said that the tour of colleges and other locations -- Union Square is a backyard for New York University students -- is about cultivating the next generation of "Seinfeld" fans in the interactive ways they prefer rather than through traditional magazine ads and the like.

"There are tens of millions of college students who were toddlers when the show was on the air and still kids when it went off the air," Oswaks said, pointing to the 70 million-strong "millennial" demographic of 10- to 28-year-olds.

After nine seasons on NBC, the final episode of "Seinfeld," in May 1998, drew 76 million viewers. The show won 13 Emmys, and remains a top 5 show in syndication.

The sitcom also has done strong DVD business, selling more than 9 million DVDs in the U.S. and, according to Home Media Research, reaping an estimated $456 million in revenue.

Among the dozens of fans checking out the bus early Thursday was Michael, 14, who was turned on to the show by his parents. "It's just like reality and really funny," he said. He then got an autograph from his favorite "Seinfeld" character, "Soup Nazi" Larry Thomas, who was on hand.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter