Burger King, the second largest hamburger chain in the US, next week will kick off a marketing campaign on MySpace.com to tap the growing audience for online social networks.

In one of the biggest such moves by a large advertiser, Burger King will sponsor a special “Have it your way” page – reflecting the company’s marketing slogan – where MySpace users will be able to download free episodes of , the hit television series that starts a new season next week. MySpace.com, the social networking site Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought last year, has nearly 80m registered users. It has recently won advertisers such as Pepsi, Toyota, Coca-Cola and others seeking to attract its prized young users who are harder to reach with traditional television advertising.

“Advertiser interest in reaching this audience is growing by the day,” said Richard Greenfield, analyst at Pali Research, which predicts revenues of more than $200m for MySpace by the end of the year.

After its sale to News Corp for $580m, the group is under pressure to show that it can make money out of its huge audience without driving them away.

MySpace.com plans to create a social network around where users can discuss the drama, put up their own content and download other episodes for $1.99 each.

“We’re giving consumers what they want with the choice of free shows – wherever and whenever they want to watch them – and the ability to talk about those shows in the social networking environment of MySpace,” said Gillian Smith, senior director for media at Burger King Holdings.

Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, the News Corp division that includes MySpace, said it would “help his story” that big advertisers such as Burger King were “embracing user-generated sites such as MySpace”.

The announcement comes during the annual negotiations between US television broadcasters and advertisers. For the first time this year, broadcasters and cable networks are pitching for the billions of advertising dollars by highlighting their ability to reach internet and on-demand audiences alongside traditional viewers. Disney’s ABC, for example, is offering free episodes of its top shows on abc.com and has required the advertisements to be interactive. Disney, Fox and others offer downloads of programmes via iTunes.

“The key really is what’s the right messaging [in different media] so that we don’t alienate the audience,” said Donna Speciale, president at Mediavest, a big ad buying agency.

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