Warner Bros. Online today plans to announce a new form of interactive entertainment that will use digital video disk technology combined with the Web to create online "storydwelling" communities around original content.
For Warner Bros., the strategy is a solution to the problem of trying to develop compelling interactive content for a slow-speed Internet world, and kicks off with an online-only show called "Driveon" being launched this fall.
AT THE STUDIO
"Driveon," which is the term for a studio-lot driving pass, takes a behind-the-scenes look at Warner Bros. Studios, mixing content, commerce and community, said Jim Banister, VP-general manager of Warner Bros. Online.
Mixing DVD content with Internet capabilities, users will be able to chat, create their own home pages, conduct electronic commerce, and engage in other interactive experiences around the show.
"Driveon" is the first of several shows Warner Bros. plans to develop using a new interactive platform intended to give users more of a TV-like experience online, but with interactive capabilities.
"We've been frustrated because there are no economics for producing original entertainment for the Internet, because there are no households," Mr. Banister said.
Currently, only a handful of homes in test markets are capable of receiving high-quality full-motion video on the Internet with broadband networks. Microsoft Corp. estimates 15 million DVD-equipped PCs will be in homes by yearend, and expects 50 million will be sold in 1999.
Partnering with HyperLock Technologies, Warner Bros. plans to distribute digital video disks containing six to 12 episodes of original video programming through retailers, ad partners and computer makers.
OTHER NEW PROGRAMMING
Warner Bros. also may create Web-only episodes for existing TV shows. Once users have the disks, they can go to the Warner Bros. site to "unlock" new programming, and participate in online communities built around the shows.
Warner Bros. is not the only TV network that has created original content online or woven new storylines for existing TV shows into online content. NBC has created interactive content around several of its TV shows for the Web, such as "The Pretender."
NBC also has been able to sign up advertisers, such as General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile, which integrated its Intrigue model into the "Pretenders" storyline on the NBC site in a product-placement type advertising model. The Warner Bros. model would go beyond developing new online content with a hybrid DVD-Web model, and it's banking on the technology to give users a more compelling entertainment experience online.
Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.