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The CW may have built its reputation on reliable audience-pleasing genres like supernatural soap opera and teen drama. But on the online side, it has never been afraid to experiment.
The CW’s latest endeavor is an entirely new platform: CW Seed, which launched two weeks ago and currently plays host to seven original web-only series, including CelebTV, Backpackers and the newest season of fan favorite Husbands.
The platform, according to EVP of Marketing and Digital Programs Rick Haskins, was created in part to fill a niche currently underserved by the CW’s broadcast side: Comedy. Currently, the CW airs 10 hours of broadcast television a week, all of which are one-hour dramas — Seed looks to supplement that with a selection of comedy and animated projects.
“I love all of the shows,” Haskins said. “In a weird way they all seem to work together as a real brand — they’re all fun, they have a young vibe to them, and fit our 18-to-34-year-old demographic.”
How that came about was simple: “We were big fans of Husbands when it was on YouTube. (s GOOG) When Jane and Brad came in, they liked our philosophy, and we knew that they had a great product,” Haskins said. “So it was easy to make a deal.”
While the CW’s broadcast schedule is currently fully booked, there is potential for Seed programming to cross over to television. “From time to time, there are holes we need to fill in the schedule — shifting shows to fill those holes could be an interesting experiment,” Haskins said.
In general, experimentation is the name of the game for CW Seed. “We’re going to try a bunch of different things,” Haskins said.
It starts with the site, which features a bold, intuitive design: “My digital team had a blast designing it,” Haskins said of the site. “We took a lot of chances, and there are a lot of things there that you’ll see morph into CWTV.com [the main hub for CW content].”
Because this is the year 2013 and this is what you do now, Seed has also created a Tumblr presence full of Vine videos and animated GIFs to promote its content; the account is relatively young, but some posts have received hundreds of reblogs and likes.
Also, the CW was an early leader in experimenting with ad loads on its online content, notably putting nearly the same number of commercials on episodes of Gossip Girl that would be seen on television. CW Seed is open to that as well — right now, though, shows like Husbands are running with standard-length pre-rolls.
One experiment Haskins says Seed isn’t considering, though, is the Netflix model of releasing all episodes of a show at once. “We’d maybe do more than one at once, but all at once doesn’t give it a lot of time for word of mouth. And word of mouth is the most important promotional vehicle we have,” he said.