TV Article

Colapalooza

Pepsi sponsors a $1 billion reality show. The sodamaker will pony up a 10-figure jackpot

Don't tell Rusell Simmons, but a lot of people may well ignore the hip-hop mogul's proposed boycott of Pepsi products if they believe they have a shot at winning $1 billion. (That's right, stick your pinkie in the corner of your mouth, one beeeellion dollars.) Variety reports that Pepsi is sponsoring a two-hour special this fall on the WB in which contestants will compete for a 10-figure jackpot. And how will they be selected? By buying one of a handful of specially marked soda cans that will be randomly distributed across the country, Willy Wonka-style.

The random nature of the contest means that winners of the golden-ticket soda cans should come from all walks of life. Once selected, contestants will compete in what insiders describe to Variety as ''a game of nerve and 'chicken.'''

Producing the special will be Diplomatic Productions, the company that imported ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' to America. As for that billion-dollar jackpot, no one's guaranteed to win it, but Pepsi is reportedly shopping for insurers in case it has to make such a payout -- and hoping that consumers get very, very thirsty between now and September.

As for Simmons, he's seeking just a $5 million windfall from Pepsi, which he wants the bottler to donate to the Ludacris Foundation, rapper Ludacris' charity. Last week, Simmons urged a boycott of Pepsi for dropping Ludacris as a pitchman over protests about his vulgar lyrics (complaints that were spurred by another boycott call, led by Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly), then hiring the similarly potty-mouthed Osbourne clan. Simmons is also asking Pepsi to apologize to the rapper and air his shelved ads.

Originally posted Feb 10, 2003
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