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'House of Dreams' Losers Cash in Anyway

A&E Network has come up with what some viewers might view as the ultimate product placement for its new series House of Dreams: cash.

The winner at the end of the 12-episode series, which will feature 16 contestants building a home in Florida, wins the house. One contestant will be kicked off of the show at the end of each episode, but LendingTree Inc., the series' largest sponsor, will dole out checks for $5,000 to each losing contestant.

"There are no expectations from any of the people who are leaving the house. And when they get that [check], it comes as a complete surprise," said Mark Bohn, vice president of AETN Link, A&E Television Networks' integrated sales division.

House of Dreams, which premiered Jan. 5, represents one of A&E's biggest integrated sales efforts yet. Actor George Wendt, best known as the character Norm on Cheers, is host.

In addition to rewarding the dream house to the winner of the reality show, A&E is running a sweepstakes promotion in which viewers will get a chance to win their own home near the dream house in Harmony, Fla. Subscribers can enter the sweepstakes by going to A&E's Web site to answer trivia questions about the program.

"Not only do you watch people on the show win a house, but you too can win your own dream house," said Stacy Krusch, A&E director of strategic alliances and consumer promotion.

A&E also crafted product-placement deals with Mohawk Flooring, GAF Roofing, JC Penney, Lane Home Furnishings and Georgia Pacific, which manufactures building material. All of the product placements will be overt, except for the LendingTree plugs, which will come when checks are rewarded at the end of each episode, Bohn said.

Bohn also cut a deal with Good Housekeeping, in which A&E agreed to the placement of products that have received the magazine's seal of approval. In exchange, Good Housekeeping will run an advertorial that touts House of Dreams and some of the contestants.

House of Dreams and Airline, the net's other new reality series, which tracks workers and passengers on Southwest Airlines, also benefited from exposure in a four-page advertising supplement that was inserted in the Jan. 5 edition of The New York Times.

According to Nielsen Media Research data, House debuted with a 0.7 household rating from 9 to 10 p.m. (730,000 viewers 2-plus) and delivered 408,000 adults 25 to 54. The two half-hour episodes of Airline that followed each averaged a 1.0 rating, and took off with 784,000 adults 25 to 54.