I know what a lot of you may be thinking after hearing that Six Flags (NYSE: SIX ) is taking a 40% chunk of Dick Clark Productions: What's Six Flags doing buying a stake in the company behind the Golden Globe Awards and American Music Awards programs? Shouldn't it be investing in new rides? What's the point of cashing in on the tradition of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve when most of Six Flags' parks are closed for the winter?
Unfortunately, you're asking the wrong questions. This deal is about the amazing portfolio that "America's Oldest Teenager" has amassed over the years at DCPI. It fits much better into the new family-friendly Six Flags mosaic than you may initially think.
There are some pretty amazing opportunities here, once you line them all up. The Six Flags press release did a pretty good job of highlighting some of the possibilities. They are:
- So You Think You Can Dance special events to drive attendance at Six Flags.
- Awards-show ticket sweepstakes and promotions to spur Six Flags season-pass sales at all 20 of its parks.
- A SixFlags.com lottery for backstage passes to the American Music Awards.
- Exclusive theme-park use of the DCPI libraries, including American Bandstand and Bloopers episodes and past award shows for in-park use and marketing.
- A rebranding of the company's Thursday Night Summer Concert Series as the American Music Awards Concert Series in 2008.
- American Bandstand concerts at Six Flags.
- Access to DCPI's production resources, to open up the possibility of original content development.
So you think you can plan ...
The Six Flags suggestions barely scratch the surface, though. There is so much more that can be done once you line up the modest $40 million investment for that 40% stake in DCPI and what can be done at the park level. And I'm not just talking about free-fall rides modeled after the ball drop in Times Square.
Here are some of the more tantalizing possibilities I can think of.
- So You Think You Can Dance should be more than just a special event. The summertime hit on News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) Fox TV network should be a show performed a few times daily at each park. Imagine plucking unlikely dancers from the audience during the pre-show and teaching them some dance moves backstage. Meanwhile, Six Flags dancers and audience members who wanted to strut their stuff would get a chance on stage before the freshly trained dancers came out for the finale.
- It would be heresy to move New Year's Rockin' Eve out of Times Square, but the West Coast feeds should come from Magic Mountain. It would vindicate the move to keep the year-round California park, as well as draw top recording stars who are often reluctant to go on the amusement park-gigging circuit. If Disney (NYSE: DIS ) uses its Christmas morning parade show as a promotional front for its theme parks, why shouldn't Six Flags get in on the fun?
- Dick Clark owns a fledgling chain of American Bandstand-themed diners. It may hit too close to home, with Johnny Rockets locations already in six parks (and counting), but now is the time to dream big, take a page out of the Sci-Fi Drive-In at Disney-MGM Studios park in Florida, and create an immersive Dick Clark-themed restaurant, where tables resemble cars and where clips of 1950s dance shows -- instead of Disney's B-movie trailers -- are projected on the big screen.
- Bloopers: The Stunt Show. Creating -- and in some cases rebranding -- stunt shows that feature humorous staged pratfalls, with classic blooper reels screened between the antics, would be a crowd-pleasing winner.
- The American Music Awards show could get a grassroots makeover at the theme-park level. Just slap on the local city at the end of the AMA brand, and create either a battle of the bands -- or vocalists, to keep it simple -- and make it a sticky series for the summertime. Selling compilation CDs -- either physically or through digital-distribution outlets such as Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iTunes -- of the top performers would be a great way to rally the local community and generate some good local media buzz.
- Parks that include Western themes could incorporate saloons based on the Academy of Country Music Awards show, complete with sarsaparilla -- or heartier libations -- on tap as music videos play.
- Unfortunately, many of the popular award shows in the DCPI portfolio do not air during the parks' operating seasons. However, kiosks could still be set up to tabulate nominations or actual votes for a Six Flags People's Choice category.
- On the viral marketing front, classic DCPI clips could be prepackaged with Six Flags marketing and syndicated through all of the popular video-streaming outlets. The library is deep, and it's still highly untapped in cyberspace.
Taking a bandstand stand
I knew Six Flags would eventually make a media-content acquisition. I saw it in CEO Mark Shapiro's eyes last year, when I spent a day with him at Six Flags Great Adventure last season. The former ESPN programming guru noted that Six Flags could be more than just an amusement-park operator in a few years. And now it's beginning to happen. The DCPI move is brilliant.
Working for Disney, Shapiro learned plenty about the importance of owning content and dreaming up leisure-powered entertainment. One day, Six Flags may become Six Flags Entertainment. If it did, that would certainly draw a distinction between itself and rival regional park chain Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN ) , which has committed itself to running quality parks while outsourcing for licensed characters.
Given the choice, Shapiro would probably want to run Six Flags the flashier Disney way over the operationally consistent Cedar Fair way. This morning is a move in that direction, just without the mouse ears.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family on coaster treks over the summer. He does own Disney shares and units in Cedar Fair. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.