Warner Bros. Bets Big on Web Ads With TheWB.com, KidsWB

Warner Bros. Television Group yesterday unveiled a slate of new ad-supported digital initiatives, including a video portal at TheWB.com, a youth site at KidsWB.com, and new made-for-Web programming. Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, and Mattel are among the launch sponsors of the digital expansion moves.

EVP Michael Teicher’s digital media sales group will package advertising and sponsorships. In a press conference detailing the new platforms, Teicher declined to elaborate on the specific form advertising on the new site will take, other than to say his team will offer custom packages.

“We will do some traditional placements,” he said, adding, “We want to listen to advertisers and understand what their needs are.”

TheWB.com will launch in beta next month. The site is aimed at adults aged 16 to 34 with a skew toward women, and will combine past successful shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Smallville” with new original programming, including a drama from the creator of TheOC.com and Gossip Girl. Warner Bros. execs will also pursue distribution and licensing relationships to push its content to other sites including Fancast.com and AOL, and will seek to bring in outside content.

TheWB.com will emphasize interactivity and social networking, execs said. In addition to its standalone presence, the site will reside within Facebook as an app and will allow Facebook users to log in and check messages while on its site. Examples of on-site interactivity include the ability to chat with friends via an in-page window while watching shows together.

A new children’s site at KidsWB.com.com is geared toward children six to 12. It will offer thousands of classic shows and hundreds of game-like experiences involving classic characters from Warner Bros. Animation, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, and DC Comics. Youthful visitors can interact with and customize the look of animated characters.

What if someone wants to create a goth Tweety Bird? Or a pink-haired Tasmanian Devil? “No problem,” said Sam Ades, general manager of WB Kids. “What they want they create.”

Special areas of KidsWB.com will include DC HeroZone, built around super heroes, and KidsWBJr, focused on pre-kindergarten users. Mattel has the right to launch advertising and promotions on DC HeroZone. Its involvement includes “fun and interactive ways to further engage kids on the site while also integrating deep online brand features,” the companies said in a statement.

Teicher said Mattel’s sponsorship will focus in particular on DC’s Batman character, because the company has a sponsorship and promotional relationship with the Warner Bros. around the upcoming film.

The launches comes two years after the shutdown of the WB cable channel, which was replaced by The CW. Warner Bros. executives said people shouldn’t view its recent moves as a replacement for television.

“This is not an incubator for cheap development for cable and television,” said Craig Erwich, EVP of Warner Bros. Television. “We’re not trying to save money here.”

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