After a year in the works, TheWB.com is out of beta and opening to the public today. While the main draw to the site is the old shows that aired when The WB was known as a youth-centric TV network — e.g., Gilmore Girls, Everwood and Buffy The Vampire Slayer — TheWB.com also hopes to attract those currently in their teens with new shows such as Blue Water High (which premieres on the site today, but previously aired on Australian TV), A Boy Wearing Makeup, and Sorority Forever, which will debut the second week in September.
Sorority Forever, produced by the makers of the digital series Prom Queen, represents where TheWB.com plans to go with its new programming. Episodes will be about 2 minutes each, with a new one airing daily Monday-Friday for eight weeks. I spoke with Craig Erwich, EVP, Warner Horizon Television, and he says that the short form is where the focus will likely remain for new series. “We might come to the point where we might think, ‘Hey, this could work as a 20-minute feature.’ But we’ll take our cues from the audience and adjust if we feel the production costs and timing allow it.” Erwich, who also oversees TheWB.com on behalf of the Warner Brothers Television Group, also discussed the brand’s value to advertisers and consumers, how its different from Hulu and stressing that TheWB.com wants to work as a website, not a tryout for TV. More after the jump.
– The WB brand: Bringing back the brand made sense not just to attract advertisers, but to attract former viewers and build on The WB’s past identity as a network that runs programming with young women in mind, Erwich said. “Viewers do remember the network and they remember the programming; it really wasn’t that long ago. And yes, marketers and ad agencies do recall the network as well. But we mainly felt that The WB had a distinct identity and connection with a certain type of viewer and a certain style of programming. So it made sense to bring it back.” So, far, only two advertisers have signed on: Johnson & Johnson and H&M. The studio is currently talking with other marketers, but Erwich declined to say how many he expects to add or when. In general, they will likely be in the beauty and fashion categories, but he said that automotives was an area they’re looking to as well. “We have a pretty wide tent in terms of the kinds of advertisers we hope to partner with.”
– We’re not Hulu: The main difference between TheWB.com and the *NBC Universal*/*News Corp* joint venture Hulu, is that the former is more than just the videos, Erwich said. “We have a clear editorial point of view with regard to the kind of programming we run, whereas Hulu is more of a generalist. Secondly, it’s not just about the videos with us. The site is as much programming as it is about the games and video mashups that users can create. We sought to create a more immersive experience.”
– Morphing into a cable net?: “How many times do we have to say, ‘No’?” Erwich answered when asked if WBTVG has any ambitions about returning the WB brand to TV as a formal network, possibly on cable. “We’re interested in creating a successful website, first and foremost. When we see a new show, we don’t ask ourselves if this might have potential to migrate to TV. Creating a website is hard enough. We’re not interested in creating another TV network. We believe the internet is a great story-telling canvas. And that’s where our focus is.”