January 19, 2006

Amazon to launch online talk show with Bill Maher

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Online retail giant Amazon.com said
on Thursday that it planned to launch a half-hour Web-based
talk show this summer hosted by television personality Bill
Maher and featuring author and celebrity interviews and musical

"Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher" is produced by Amazon and
will be streamed live on Thursdays beginning June 1.

Internet commerce companies are looking for new ways to
attract customers, and the talk show is the latest by Amazon as
it adds entertainment content to its shopping site, aiming to
increase its audience and sales.

Books and CDs of show guests will be readily available on
Amazon and "closely integrated with the show experience," said
Amazon spokeswoman Jani Strand.

Amazon will show a preview episode of the series at the
Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, but consumers can
see highlights online starting next Tuesday. Musician Rob
Thomas, authors Stephen King and Armistead Maupin and actress
Toni Collette will be Maher's guests in the preview.

Maher currently hosts the HBO talk show "Real Time With
Bill Maher."

The company has in the past invited celebrities to provide
video footage, photographs or writings on the site and has
offered consumers original short films produced by well-known

Last year, Amazon organized an online short film
competition with a $50,000 prize in partnership with the
Tribeca Film Festival.

The talk show format will be a good platform for promotions
and fuel traffic and future tie-ins, said Nielsen/Net Ratings
analyst Heather Dougherty.

"Using the talk show format to promote products is far more
contextually relevant for Amazon," said Dougherty. "It
definitely makes sense. Certainly the popularity of that
(format) offline, bringing that online could bode well."

Amazon has several other 12-episode series currently in
development, Strand said, but would not give details.