Yes that’s right, Warner Brothers revives The WB brand and launches TheWB.com as an online video hub poised to compete with Hulu.com (my favorite time killer when sitting in a plane on the runway on delayed flights). Actually Warner Brothers call it “a premium, ad-supported, video-on-demand, interactive and personalized network”.
The site is aimed at the Adults 16–34 demographic highly coveted by advertisers, with an emphasis on women, and will consist of four main elements: original programming created or acquired specifically for TheWB.com, the re-release of a collection of The WB Network’s most popular series and other successful programming, a commitment to interactivity, and an extensive network of distribution partners.
One of the more sophisticated features is a comprehensive video search powered by DigitalSmiths, which will transcribe the audio component of the video into text to allow for search and targeting. Of course we all know how accurate these technologies are – but it’s a great step in the right direction and it’s nice to see a major media brand experimenting with it. (See my post from Feb “The Future of Video is Audio…Text Actually“).
The press release also hones in on a few key elements of the launch and distribution:
TheWB.com’s debut features the unveiling of an original application that will launch on Facebook and allow seamless integration of Facebook’s social utility on TheWB.com, and TheWB.com’s entertainment content on Facebook. Additionally, TheWB.com’s shows will be distributed across the Internet, on television and in the wireless space via a variety of preferred partners, including Comcast Cable, Fancast.com, and AOL. Johnson & Johnson has signed on to be the charter sponsor of TheWB.com at launch.
The announcement of what seems like a lot of original content is great to hear. I have been predicting a breakaway online hit to happen this year or (more likely) in 2009, after the failing of Quarter Life on MySpace/NBC/Bravo. The target of 16-34 year olds skewed female will be reflected in the choice of programming, and a few of the original series are slated to premiere along with the launch, with the remainder rolling out through 2009.
The full press release can be found here.
Apparently the networks are finally realizing that simply airing programming in plain vanilla packing 24 hours after airing on TV just doesn’t work – not for consumersnot for advertisers, and certainly not for the networks. Adding value to the experience with rich features, and providing original content should prove to be the right approach – or at least part of it.