While watching a movie on the USA Network yesterday, I was pelted with appeals to visit the USA website; this is normal. What they were promoting is less common, but becoming more so.
USA has a section on their website, launched last year, that invites viewers to create avatars and play games based on the USA programs and characters.
My pal Brad does this kind of development for Cartoon Network. With the younger demographic, the Cartoon Network was smart to pursue this some time ago. The games there are not exclusively tied to the content on the cable network, giving the game creators and network execs more room to experiment. The same is true of the offerings on the USA site.
The casual gaming world is one that we will see more of in the near future. A logical extension of the website, these brand-reinforcing exercises promote another tie between the viewer and the network. They are relatively simple, based in the Flash world, making them easily compatible across platform & browser.
As media outlets strive for brand loyalty amongst the consumer base, they are wise to consider offering their wares to the people to be consumed how, when, and where they want. That will not be enough. Just as extras on DVDs have become a selling point, so too will ancillary offerings from content creators. Behind the scenes material, extra material, and related not-of-the-primary-format material will all be of interest to the people.