Two major card issuers announced entertainment-oriented products last week that are indicative of a new kind of cobranding.
First USA Inc. joined the dominant U.S. ticketing agency to offer the Ticketmaster Platinum MasterCard. And Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Co.'s Novus Services unit launched a Universal Studios card.
Both come brimming with cardholder reward opportunities. The industry as a whole has been going in the opposite direction, with rebate-rich programs like Citibank's with Ford Motor Co. and M&T Bank of Buffalo's with Giant Food Inc. discontinued during the past year because of high costs.
Except for the recent demise of the Blockbuster Entertainment card issued by NationsBank Corp., the media and entertainment field is seen as ripe for cobranding success.
This year, Spring House, Pa.-based Advanta Corp. launched a cobranded card with cable television giant Comcast Corp., as did Wachovia Bank Card Services with BMG Entertainment North America.
"A lot of entertainment rewards have a very high perceived value in the minds of consumers, but the actual cost to provide things like signed artist memorabilia is not that high for the partners," said Jeffrey Baxter, principal of S.J. Baxter and Associates, Forest Hill, Md.
Mr. Baxter said the Blockbuster card failed because giving out free videos was a direct hit to the partners' revenue stream.
The Ticketmaster Platinum card has no annual fee, a 5.9% teaser interest rate for five months, and a fixed rate of 14.99%.
Cardholders get five reward points for each dollar spent with the ticket service and one point for all other purchases.
Points are redeemable for Ticketmaster gift certificates, actual tickets, merchandise, and fantasy experiences.
"First USA and Ticketmaster wanted to build a lot of value into this program so customers could obtain benefits not just limited to Ticketmaster," said a spokesman for First USA.
Customers can get discounts on dinner and a Broadway show or sporting event as a complete bonus package, he said.
The no-fee Universal Studios card from Riverwoods, Ill.-based Novus carries an introductory interest rate of 7.9% for six months on purchases and balance transfers. The rate will then jump to prime plus 9.9%, currently 18.4%.
Cardholders can earn one "Studio Point" for each dollar of purchases charged to the card; redemption levels range from 500 to 25,000 points.
Points are redeemable for movie passes, videos, compact discs, concerts, or theme park visits. At the high end, cardholders can gain a walk-on role on a television show, attendance at a world premiere, or a family weekend package at a Universal Studios theme park.
The card can also be used to get second-day free admission to the theme parks, preferred pricing at Universal Studios Stores, and the opportunity to participate in promotional tie-ins.
Mr. Baxter, the consultant, said Universal might have strong appeal in terms of rewards but consumers will wonder where they can use the Novus card for other purchases.