NATPE '98: LED BY WARNER, ANIMATION LEADS SYNDICATORS TO WEB: ADVERTISER-FRIENDLY SITE ALSO DRIVES TV LINK

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Syndicators are building Web sites with an eye for enticing advertisers -- but so far Warner Bros.' WB Online unit seems to offer the most extensive and advertiser-friendly environment.

Visitors to the site (www.warnerbros.com) are greeted by a number of options, including an immediate opportunity to click into a featured advertiser's hotlinked Web site, whether it's for Discover Card or amazon.com.

At NATPE, Warner Bros. intends to announce new online ventures and partners, says Jim Moloshok, senior VP. It claims to have sold enough advertising to account for 40% to 50% of the online unit's budget for 1998.

Warner Bros. estimates relationships with 50 to 60 advertisers, including Columbia House, Discover Card, IBM Corp. and Total E.

80 MILLION PAGE VIEWS

Simmons Market Research reports 80 million page views a month for the site; it ranks in the top 10 for news, information and entertainment. The audience is 47% women and 53% men; 66.3% of the adults are 18-to-49.

Jupiter Communications' Web Track service ranks Warner's site as 33rd in total revenues to date, and No. 1 of all studio Web site revenues, Mr. Moloshok says.

Warner Bros. will continue to reach its online audience through a placement on Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. As a result, the site will be one click away from 40 million to 50 million desktops.

Along with an expanded arrangement with America Online, the placement is crucial to the future of Warner Bros. Online, Mr. Moloshok contends, since carriage is what determines how much traffic comes into a site.

"When we designed our environment, we designed it for advertisers," says Mr. Moloshok.

The intent is to integrate advertisers and their promotions seamlessly into the entertainment sites. That approach to the Web is what Warner says sets it apart from other TV syndicators.

"Ultimately that's [Warner Bros. Online] where we, like other syndicators, want to be," notes Gary Montanus, senior VP-worldwide marketing, Worldvision Enterprises.

Mr. Moloshok says the Web site also entices viewers to watch TV and use the Internet simultaneously.

"Interactive Monday" on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" is one example. Ms. O'Donnell -- with a laptop on her desk -- can ask her AOL virtual audience questions.

NEW FIRST-RUN

One of the new first-run shows Warner Bros. is selling at NATPE is "A Change of Heart." The program will make its debut with a significant online component. Viewers will be able to preview the people about to appear on the show and vote for the couple of their choice. If the first date is a bomb, the winner will get a second date with the No. 1 audience choice.

Another show, "Love Connection," will feature a Web chat area that will fish for couples who will meet in-person on the show.

"We envision numerous advertiser tie-ins, everything from flowers to travel packages," says Mr. Moloshok.

While some syndicators want to be just like WB, Harvey Entertainment Co. (www.harvey.com) wants to be like Spumco.com.

Harvey licenses characters such as Casper and Richie Rich, and has had syndication deals in the past with Claster Television. Spumco is an animation company started by John Kricfalusi, creator of Nickelodeon's "Ren & Stimpy" cartoon.

ANIMATION ON THE WEB

Advertiser-supported Spumco.com launched the Internet's first animated cartoon series, "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Harvey has plans to overhaul its site to include animation. Currently, the site lets visitors look at characters, send e-mail postcards and link to other sites, such as FoxKids.

"We have 2,000 comics books in our library and we are going to digitize them," says Greg Yulish, exec VP at Harvey. "We will give them away for free [on the Internet] and sell advertising on the [animated] `comics."'

The effort to alter its Web site comes in response to big changes in the animation industry.

"[Animation] syndication, at least first-run, is a prescription to lose money. There's only one buyer -- Fox. WB buys their own. Disney buys their own. And so does Nick. Fox's license fees have gone down. We look at the U.S. market as an ancillary market. If it goes out in the U.S. that's fine, but if it doesn't we wait until we get proper distribution," says Mr. Yulish, who adds Harvey is at NATPE to forge new relationships and get back into syndication.

"There's been a lot of talk in the past year about integrated marketing approaches, how the Web can drive traffic to a TV show and vice versa, but we really haven't seen many efforts in this area [other than] WB Online,"says Scott Friedland, president-CEO of Friedland, Jacobs Communications, a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based shop.

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