By Jennifer Owens

IBM has added the Tonys to its stable of major-event Web sites-including the Olympics, the U.S. Open and the Grammys-by launching, hosting and sponsoring to carry live Webcasts from the annual Broadway awards show.

Already, the site has featured actors Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth announcing the year's Tony award nominees as well as live interviews from the annual Tonys Nominee Brunch held earlier this month. In two weeks, however, will Webcast the prestigious event itself, on June 4 beginning at 8 p.m.

This isn't the first time the Tonys have gone online, said Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theatres and Producers, noting that the award's first Web site launched a few years ago, but went dark last June. That site, however, bore little resemblance to its IBM-created descendent with its streaming video and interactive offerings for rabid theatre fans who eagerly await the awards show each year.

This year, said Bernstein, will encourage people holding their own Tony parties to register with the site for prizes. It will also offer online chats with nominees, user polls and script excerpts from nominated shows. And while not meant to be a big source for ticket sales, the site is expected to offer such e-commerce next year, Bernstein said.

According to Robin deMarrais, a senior producer for IBM Global Services, the Tony site-which was created in about two months by a staff of about a dozen-contains more content than any other major event site produced by IBM, save for the Olympics.

Copyright 2000 ASM Communications, Inc. Used With Permission From Brandweek Magazine