Synergisticus! Universal Uses NBC to Hype Harry Potter

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www.youtube.com"Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon, center.
Universal Orlando is drumming up hype on NBC for its ambitious expansion of Harry Potter-themed attractions.

Jimmy Fallon is taping "The Tonight Show" this week from the Florida theme park. From an "Orlando" parody of Abba's "Fernando" to a randy sketch at Islands of Adventure's Ollivander's wand shop, the show is building buzz for the Diagon Alley expansion at Universal Studios Florida.

Comcast (CMCSK) owns Universal Orlando and NBC, home of "The Tonight Show." Wednesday's "Today" on NBC joined in the hype.

Following the Mouse

Comcast has learned about cross-marketing hype by watching the best: Rival Disney (DIS) uses ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and other properties to promote its gated attractions.

Annual Disney holiday parades on ABC are always padded with features on upcoming theme park attractions and promotions. ABC's "The Middle" filmed its season finale at Disney World, airing just in time to promote the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland expansion that culminated in the opening of the tame yet popular Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride three weeks ago.

Universal's expansion is more intricate. Diagon Alley re-creates a Potter-verse London and various landmarks from J.K. Rowling's series. Its star attractions are an indoor roller coaster in Gringotts Bank and the Hogwarts Express train ride that connects Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks.

A big media event this week coincides with the NBC frenzy. My request for media credentials last month was rebuffed, and others who routinely cover the theme park industry are saying on Twitter that they're being denied access to the sneak peak. We'll cover it anyway. There really isn't much of a choice. The Diagon Alley expansion is going to be the crowning achievement of the 2014 summer season.

Potter's New Levitation Spell

Universal Orlando's been on a roll since the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Islands of Adventure four years ago. Attendance has been climbing at both parks since then. Last year's biggest gainer in Central Florida, according to the Themed Entertainment Association, was Universal Studios Florida, with a 14 percent spike in attendance.

Disney operates all six of the country's most popular theme parks, but it's been slow to add bar-raising attractions, and the two Universal Orlando parks are closing in. This summer's Potter expansion could be just enough to eat into Disney's dominance, and it's not going to take any magical spells to make it happen.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney.



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