Warner Bros. gets serious about web 2.0

10 09 2007

Following last week’s news about Warner Bros. online video deal with ABC, comes this coverage in the New York Times, reporting that the studio is to ramp up the creation of original programming for the web, marking a significant change of strategy.

Warners had previously hedged its bets on getting advertisers to take on the risk of funding such content, but the new initiative means that it will dig into its own pocket to get a slate of 24 new web formats into production. But the sums involved are still small beer compared to the traditional side of the business: the two dozen new titles will cost US $3 million, equivalent to funding required for an hour of prime time TV drama.

The new slate includes mini-movies, games and episodic TV shows such as:

  • The Jeannie Tate Show — a 10-parter about a neurotic mother, who presents her own TV talk show from her minivan;
  • A puppet comedy for grown-ups, created by the Jim Henson Company;
  • An online dating game, from the producer of Gilmore Girls;
  • An animated spin-off from The Wizard of Oz;
  • Viral, a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary from Joey Mandarino and David Young, charting the fortunes of a studio trying to come up with the next big online hit (think Seinfeld for the digital age);
  • And an, as yet, to be disclosed project from Joseph McGinty Nichol, one of the directors of Charlie’s Angels.

The studio has also announced its answer to Second Life: T-Works, an immersive web experience based on its Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera and DC Comics franchises, fusing elements of a virtual world, social networking and games. The new site, launching in Spring 2008, will run full-length episodes of cartoon classics, such as Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo and The Flintstones alongside the new web-exclusive short-form content outlined above.

Users will be able to create their own avatars, based on Warners’ toon characters, as well as video mash-ups and profiles. Significantly, users will also be able to embed material both on third party sites, such as social networks, and on their own desktops.