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NBC Universal to embed marketing messages in online shows

Television network of GE and Vivendi plans to collaborate with advertisers to create online programs with commercial products built into the story lines.

In the latest example of how commercialism continues to creep into art, NBC Universal has plans to create programming designed to highlight a sponsor's products, the company said Friday.

The new shows, which will appear on NBC Universal digital properties, are being produced by the company's Digital Studio division and units, in conjunction with the Omnicom Group, one of the world's most powerful advertising and marketing companies.

One of the first shows to emerge form the partnership will be an Internet sci-fi show called Gemini Division, starring actress Rosario Dawson. The show's planned sponsors are Acura, Intel, Microsoft, and UPS.

Just how the program's creators will weave the commercial products into the story line without alienating an audience that might feel manipulated is anyone's guess.

Sony Pictures Entertainment last year began offering advertisers the chance to have their products take more of a starring role in Web productions.

Gemini Division and shows like it from NBC Universal will likely be offered by Hulu, the video portal created by the TV network and News Corp.