Two promotions at Warner Bros. Online show that the company’s making a big
investment in the Internet market with mega-plans for original Web programming.
Jim Banister says his recent promotion to executive VP of the division, along with the promotion of Jim Moloshok to president, signifies a ‘more intense’ focus on new media by the company. ‘Because we were able to demonstrate that we can turn this into a business,’ he says, ‘the studio decided to put more focus and more resources towards expanding our role in the on-line space.’
Already the department has started work on what it claims to be the world’s first episodic program designed for Internet transmission. Banister says the project falls within his overall mandate to create and acquire new programming, ‘both original and brand extension,’ for Internet broadcast, rather than using the Web for marketing existing channels, series and features.
The new Internet show, called Drive-On.com, is slated to launch later in the spring, and will be the centerpiece of a new ‘vertical narrowband/broadband entertainment portal’ called Entertaindom (www.entertaindom.com). Banister says the show is being developed from the ground up with the Internet in mind, and will take advantage of everything the Web has to offer, including video, audio, text and graphic capabilities. Much like a TV show, it will be broadcast as a series of episodes, but only the estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. currently subscribing to broadband Internet services, which allow transmission speeds of about 1.5 million bits per second, will get the full effect. Banister is quick to add, however, that the division has also figured out a way to deliver the ‘broadband experience’ to those with regular Internet connections. When it comes to production costs, Banister says there won’t be much difference between producing on-line and TV series of the same quality, but on-line shows will be much cheaper to distribute.
Banister says Warner decided not to develop Web sites linked
to TV channels, like the Noggin site recently launched by Children’s Television Workshop and Nickelodeon, because he’s focused on delivering an ‘integrated’ rather than a ‘bifurcated’
experience. ‘So instead of someone watching TV, then
going on the Net to get extensions of that entertainment
experience, we’re moving that whole experience to the Web.’
He adds though, that he would consider developing
‘enhanced’ digital programming, in which programming travels simultaneously to home computers and TVs through digital satellite networks, but only if the shows were
designed for such transmission right from the start.
Meanwhile, over at Fox Family, the promotion of John Roberts to the newly created position of VP, new media heralds an emphasis on the Web at Fox, as well. Roberts’ new tasks are to get the sites for the Boyz and Girlz Channels (www.boyzchannel.com, www.girlzchannel.com) up and running for their June launch, as well as developing existing Web sites for Fox Kids Network (www.foxkids.com) and Fox Family Channel (www.foxfamilychannel.com). Looking a little farther down the road, Roberts will be heading up the newly formed ‘Fox Family convergence task force,’ which is charged with exploring possible interactive and enhanced digital TV services.