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Internet

Ozzy's antics not enough for Web surfers

"The Osbournes" and its aging star are drawing fans of the TV show online, but the site's behind-the-scenes material attracts only a fraction of the program's 5.1 million monthly viewers.

As "The Osbournes" winds down its first and perhaps final season, fans can get a glimpse behind the scenes via the hit MTV show's Web site.

The reality-based show, which portrays the family life of aging heavy-metal star Ozzy Osbourne, goes beyond the TV to the PC to capture Osbourne's profanity-laced domesticity with video clips, household rules on curfews and parties, diaries, and other knickknacks.

Visitors to the show's Web site are unlikely to find information about Osbourne that doesn't have a connection to the program, however. For example, viewers may be relieved to discover that the family has found Pipi the missing pooch, one of a pack of pets that serve as a backdrop to the show.

But no mention is made of Osbourne's recent splash at the Washington Press Correspondents dinner, where he reportedly cut it up with President Bush. (Interested readers should head to Osbourne's official Web site instead.)

Although television continues to court viewers with Web tie-ins, even runaway successes such as "The Osbournes" are carrying only a modest coattail effect online.

Research firm Jupiter Media Metrix reports that the "Osbournes" Web site had 346,000 visitors in March, a jump from 78,000 visitors in February. Rival Net research firm Nielsen/NetRatings said the site had 280,000 unique visitors who accessed the site from home in March, compared with 237,000 in February.

By contrast, TV ratings firm Nielsen Media Research reports that the show, which airs Tuesday nights, received 5.1 million viewers on average between March 5 and April 30. The family and MTV are in negotiations over renewing the contract for a second season of the show, which is among the most successful ever for the rock video channel.

While the Web site has received less attention from viewers, analysts say the results are encouraging.

"What's great about what MTV.com has offered for the 'Osbournes' site is the fact that since this is a reality-based TV show, it really extends the relationship you have with this kooky family that lives in Los Angeles," said Stacey Herron, entertainment and media analyst at Jupiter Research. "Reality television really lends itself well to the Internet because of the plethora of content that is left over on a weekly basis."

Several TV shows have used Web tie-ins, including an episode of "The Drew Carey Show" and ABC's smash game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Analysts say that the reality show "Survivor," however, has been among the first to effectively use the Web as a means of support for a TV program.