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Summary:

TheWB.com will relaunch Wednesday as an online video destination in an attempt to revive the brand (and sell a few ads). We got a sneak-peek at the new site and put it through some paces. Our initial reaction? Though the content is good, the confusing interface […]

TheWB.com will relaunch Wednesday as an online video destination in an attempt to revive the brand (and sell a few ads). We got a sneak-peek at the new site and put it through some paces. Our initial reaction? Though the content is good, the confusing interface makes one think that the WB actually stands for “Why Bother?”

CONTENT
The content is a mix of oldteevee shows and some web-only video. Some of the brand name content available includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and MadTV. Warner Bros. will be launching broad online distribution in mid-September, but until then, The WB has shows like full episodes of Friends, Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, which can’t be found on Hulu.

There is also web programming like Jeannie Tate, Whatever Hollywood and the upcoming Sorority Forever (starring Jessica Rose of Lonelygirl 15 fame).

The TV content is what it is, which is fine, but the web stuff is pretty bad, especially the Whatever Hollywood series, which follows three girls doing goofy stuff and singing some of the worst parody songs you will ever hear.

Because the site is still in preview, embeds weren’t activated yet. But in a curious move, The WB has decided to not allow full episode embedding.

NAVIGATION
Liz commented a few months back that there was nothing “revolutionary” about Hulu’s design. While true, one of the reasons the site continues to grow is that it has a clean, easy-to-navigate interface. The WB does not (and they didn’t take Liz’s notes from when she looked at the beta version).

Finding a show is pretty easy; there’s a drop-down menu to choose from. Currently, once you click on a show it takes you to that show’s page and immediately fires up a teaser trailer for that show (autoplay = annoying) and presents a list of episodes. But when you select an episode, it takes you to another page where another teaser trailer (or presumably an ad once the site launches) starts running automatically before you get to the content. That’s two pre-rolls. Bleck.

What’s confusing about this page is that the original episode list disappears. At first, it seems like you can’t switch to another episode. But that’s because the list is hidden in the task bar in tiny type where it says “episodes.” There is no indication that it’s clickable or that it brings up a list. Users shouldn’t have to make a mental leap to watch content.

FEATURES
Along with the standard video player, The WB also sports two potentially-cool features in its search and mashup tools.

The video search allows you to search through the video content by show, season, episode, character or location (though “location” wasn’t really defined and didn’t have many options). Even better, you can search for specific bits of dialog. I ran a search through the Gilmore Girls for every instance of Rory saying “mom,” which brought back a list of clips (though I’m betting she said “mom” more than the times listed here).

As for the remix, corporate-run mashup offerings are typically lame, because they constrain the user with specific clips and transitions. That holds true for The WB right now, but press materials say users will be able to search for specific scenes from shows and mash them together.

OVERALL
The biggest letdown is that for a site filled with content that people enjoy, the site doesn’t feel like fun or a better way to connect with its audience. It’s actually a much better experience watching WB programming on Hulu than it is watching it on TheWB.com.

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  1. “Why Bother” ? Ouch – you’re not invited to the WB Christmas party! ;)

    I’ve been looking at the WB beta video site for awhile too – I like the more singular focus on per show pages and large nav elements (compared to Hulu), but agree the interface could use some work. Would like to see them build communities around series and would like to see them offer entire series – this since to vary during the beta and I’m not sure what will hit the web tomorrow. Most interesting to me, though probably less relevant to the masses, is their television content offerings which didn’t originally air on the WB. Interesting licensing questions here…

  2. I’m looking forward to it!! Why not launch the syndication with the site launch, though?

    Dave – for a social discovery experience around series (media feeds that include TV, Web, UGC, and Podcasts), check us out at mefeedia.com

  3. Sneak Peek: The WB Launches Tomorrow – GigaOM Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    [...] All StoriesWebBroadbandInfrastructureMobileVoiceFoundReadMobilize 08BriefingsArchives Sneak Peek: The WB Launches Tomorrow — TheWB.com will relaunch Wednesday as an online video destination in an attempt to revive the brand (and sell a few ads). We got a sneak-peek at the new site and put it through some paces. Our initial reaction? Though the content is good, the confusing interface makes one think that the WB actually stands for Why Bother? Full Review on NewTeeVee. [...]

  4. Warner Brothers to turn on TheWB.com; watch Veronica and Buffy for free on the Web | last100 Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    [...] Albrecht of NewTeeVee was blessed with a sneak peak of TheWB.com in action and concluded that, “Though the content is [...]

  5. You’re right – it needs work. It doesn’t even fit on my 1024 wide screen. I wish these guys would settle on a standard interface. As more and more folks turn to watching internet television on their real televisions, there will be a need for simple, easy navigation (perhaps with a remote control). P.S. The WB is now on Zipityzap – you’ll find in under “Network Television.”

  6. TheWB.com Scheduled to Launch Today Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    [...] NewTeeVee was able to get a peak at the new site before launch and their reaction was, “Though the content is good, the confusing interface makes one think that the WB actually stands for “Why Bother?” [...]

  7. Wow… I didn’t know MadTv was around still!

  8. To the last point, for most people the only real interactivity they want with online video is the ability to chat with other fans online and post comments. Lycos Cinema for example is especially popular with teen audiences who use Lycos’ online video player for ABC Family shows including ‘The Secret Life of an American Teenager,’ where they can chat live with friends and fellow fans while watching past episodes of the show.

  9. Yeah… I could do with a lot less games and a lot more episodes. It’s like when MTV stopped running videos and started running “original programming.”

    MTV should be for music videos and The WB should be for guilty pleasure TV. Instead we get TRL, Exiled, and :30 video clips on MTV and The O.C. Memory Match, Friends Trivia Challenge, and One Tree Hill Personality Quiz on The WB.

  10. The web site looks slick, but surprise-surprise… no closed captioning.

    At least hulu can try and blame their content providers for lacking CC content.

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