Is there room on the Web for yet another TV network video site? We’ll find out today, when Warner Bros (TWX) unveils TheWB.com.
The major difference between the new site and those like ABC’s and Hulu, the Fox/NBC JV: There isn’t a WB broadcast network anymore. The network, which never had substantial ratings, folded into UPN in 2006 to create The CW. That looks like a disastrous move now, given the even smaller ratings at the CW. So Warner Bros. understandably wants to revive a brand it thinks still resonates with the 18-34 demo.
And given that Warner Bros. is one of Hollywood’s major TV studios, even people who don’t care about the brand may end up at the site, which will offer WB-produced shows like “Friends.” It’s also going to use those same studio resources to produce original shows for the Web — 24 in all — including “The OC” creator McG’s “Sorority Forever.”
We asked Craig Erwich, EVP of Warner Horizon Television which oversees TheWB.com, to explain the network’s strategy
Silicon Alley Insider: You’ve been able to watch a lot of others try and fail to create video destination sites; what is TheWB doing differently?
Erwich: What we have in the site is brand equity. The WB is a brand that resonates with fans and we are capitalising on the history of the brand have created a destination site that targets a niche audience and that gives fans an active experience.
SAI: There’s no advertising on the site, but I’m assuming that’s coming. How will the ads work? Will they be video ads that travel with the shows (like Hulu), display ads on the site or both?
Erwich: We have display and video ads on TheWB.com. The ads will travel with the content across the distribution network.
SAI: Will you be splitting ad revenue with distribution partners? On what terms? Do you anticipate distributing through Hulu as well?
Erwich: Yes, there is a revenue split with some of our distribution partners. We never discuss specifics or financials. Hulu is a different model than our site and they don’t have branded channels, it’s a different strategy. However, there are WBTV shows currently on Hulu for the consumer to enjoy.
SAI: Warner Bros. generally relies on others for distribution, and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has said Warner Bros. job is to be every TV networks’ second-favourite TV studio. But with site you’re going direct to consumers. Is that a change in strategy?
Erwich: Warner Bros. Television Group is a storytelling and content company. This is a natural extension of our primary business. The Web presents an excellent opportunity to give access to our content.
SAI: Might Warner launch a cable channel or make TheWB.com available on TV in some other way?
Erwich: There is no such plan in place at this time.
SAI: You’ve got a big original programming slate with some big names attached. Will these be produced on TV-sized budgets or a fraction thereof?
Erlich: We don’t discuss financials on any of our show digital or otherwise however it is fair to say that there is a difference in traditional vs. digital budgets.
SAI: How many viewers do you need to make one of these original series a success?
Erwich: We are excited for launch and looking forward to that. We are not putting metrics on our success at such an early stage in the site.
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