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Searching For 'Look-Alikes’

TV Guide Network went trolling for friends on the Internet for its My Celebrity Look-A-Like makeover show and ended up landing a lot more young viewers for the channel.

For its third season, the makeover show turned to MySpace.com as a partner for the successful promotion. The network designed a page on the social-networking site where viewers could upload their photos in a bid to earn a makeover into the star they most resemble.

“We wanted to maximize their viral capabilities. They were a perfect fit,” TV Guide Network senior vice president of marketing Doug Yates said of MySpace. People were definitely passing information about the page around, he said.

The companies have a corporate affinity: News Corp. owns MySpace and 41% of TV Guide’s parent, Gemstar-TV Guide International.

Potential participants were driven to the MySpace page through on-screen ads from Jan. 24 through March 30, promotion in other TV Guide shows and ads at TV Guide’s magazine and Web site.

The collaboration netted 252 million banner impressions throughout MySpace.

In addition to the show page, MySpace featured the page in its fashion area. There were 172,000 unique visitors to the page and about 10,000 MySpace members signed to be a friend to the TVGuide show.

Though MySpace averages 1,000 entries for photo upload contests, according to TV Guide, the look-alike content attracted 4,383 contest entries, and 9,000 MySpace users voted for the eventual winner. The networkers, in a landslide, chose Austin Wimbish, an 18-year-old from The Colony, Texas, for an Ashton Kutcher makeover, which will be televised Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.

The friend signups enabled the network to send tune-in e-mail blasts to those viewers, Yates said.

The biggest surprise of the promotion was the number of young men who participated, Yates said. Makeover shows are commonly thought to attract a female audience. A large percentage of uploads were from young men, he said.

The network also gained audience insight: In addition to entering for a makeover, friends posted comments about shows and TV Guide personalities. The channel’s research department is culling those responses for trends.

TV Guide estimates that the MySpace collaboration has triggered a 30% year-to-year growth in ratings in teen demographics (ages 12 to 14) and among young adults (18 to 34).

Perhaps the greatest value to the promotion was highlighting the channel’s programming. Many cable viewers still view the channel as only a guide and not a destination for shows, Yates noted. Viewership is higher on satellite-TV platforms DirecTV and Dish Network, as TV Guide Network runs without a programming grid on those satellite TV providers, he said.