Warner Bros. TV Unveils Online Programming Slate; WB Gets Second Chance As Female-targeted Video Net
By David Kaplan - Mon 28 Apr 2008 11:00 AM PST
Although details slipped out about its broadband plans a few weeks ago, Warner Bros. TV Group is now prepared to say it’s resurrecting its WB Network TV brand as an ad-supported video network that will offer a mix of new programming and old series aimed at women viewers. TheWB.com, which launches next week in beta, is part of the WBTVG’s overall digital expansion called “Warner Bros.’ Studio 2.0,” which the company will be announcing this afternoon in New York City. Among the other digital initiatives WBTVG execs will be promoting are the children-focused animation site called KidsWB.com (formerly known as “T-Works") and the previously reported web alliance with Time Inc.’s Essence magazine.
As a TV property, The WB was known for such teen-targeted fare as Gilmore Girls, Everwood and What I Like About You; it was merged with Fox’s UPN Network to create The CW for the 2006-07 TV season. By bringing it back as a web destination, WBTVG hopes to fully establish itself as a broadband entertainment programmer. Secondly, the hope is that by building buzz for shows online, since the programming will be targeted squarely at women 16-34, it could lay the groundwork for bringing new shows to TV. But, perhaps wary of the inability to successfully migrate internet programming to TV - such as quarterlife’s quick flameout on NBC - WB executives insisted that online entertainment is the main focus. Some of the details of the WBTVG execs will outline include:
-- WBTVG has already secured some big name ad support for TheWB.com and KidsWB, including Johnson & Johnson for the former and McDonald’s and Mattel for the latter. Launch partners include Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) Cable, Fancast.com and Time Warner sibling AOL (NYSE: TWX). WBTVG is also talking to a number of mobile carriers as well. In addition to the new programming, WBTVG is creating a Facebook app that will let users watch and share clips with other members.
-- On the talent side, WBTVG has lined up director/producer McG (Terminator 4, the “Charlie’s Angels” movies) and writer/producer Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl) and Big Fantastic (producers of the internet series Prom Queen. TheWB.com currently has seven short-form shows being developed for site, including Sorority Forever, which execs are describing as ”Prom Queen meets The O.C.; Exposed, billed as a thriller concerning a college student with a hidden past; Chadam, a 3D animation project based on the surreal character that appears in videos by the alt-rock band The Used; Rich Girl/Poor Girl, a class-based comedy set in Los Angeles about two teen girls who switch places; Lockdown, a show about a model being kept prisoner in her own home; a reality series about a high school musical production called High Drama: Against All Oz; and an untitled series about a fictional Hollywood rock club. I spoke to Bruce Rosenblum, WBTVG’s president, about the goals the company has for its online programming plans. More after the jump.
-- The rollout: The company plans to rollout its new web series over the next several months; at least two of the series should be up by mid-summer. No dates have been set yet. Rosenblum: “Everything we will be doing from an original standpoint will be short-form. As for the the way we define short-form, that’s still evolving. I don’t know if it’s 3-minutes, 5-minutes or 6-minute episode. Either way, it won’t be a uniform structure. The length of episodes will be determined by the individual producers.”
-- Made for online: “We do not view this as development for a platform other than the new media space. We view the new media space as a business within itself. If one of these series do happen to take off in a wildly successful fashion and if we really believe it can be compelling in another platform, of course, we’ll try to take advantage of that. But this is not about supporting TV; this is about creating a separate business, and we regard online video as a separate form of storytelling.”
-- Bringing back The WB: The reforming of The WB brand as an online-only site was meant to connect with advertisers, who still associate the TV network’s female-centric programming, Rosenblum said: “We have an over-arching strategy of doing demographic targeted, niche destinations with ad support. We knew that The WB’s demo was very appealing to advertisers and therefore, it was suggested that we should develop a destination based on that existing identity.”
-- Virtual worlds: Before the end of the year, WBKids.com will release a virtual world comprised of the WB’s iconic Looney Toons characters - who include cartoon favorites like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig - as well as new ones that will be created for the kids destination.
Tags: warner bros.