CityWeb, based on a syndicated TV distribution model, will be sold to the Web sites of leading local TV stations around the country. The plan is for the local stations to co-brand the sites under the banner of their call letters and the CityWeb name.
The introduction, planned for summer, will be backed by as much as $30 million in ad support; no agency has yet been given the assignment, though one is expected to be named soon.
LOTS OF NATIONAL CONTENT
CityWeb will provide stations with a slew of national content from Warner Bros. Online; its sister companies, such as CNN Interactive and People Online; and other programming providers.
Further, CityWeb will offer the stations templates so they can target local sales opportunities, as well as the technology to do local classified ads online.
With a major affiliate sales effort starting next week at the annual convention of the National Association of Television Programming Executives, Warner Bros. Online is targeting a summer launch of CityWeb. The company hopes to obtain clearances on Web sites in markets covering 60% to 70% of the U.S. population.
Warner Bros. Online, in conjunction with sister company Telepictures Distribution, will sign up one station in each market; the plan is to recruit the station with the No. 1-rated local newscast in each city.
CLASSIC SYNDICATION SETUP
Following a classic barter-syndication model with a new twist, each station signing up for CityWeb will be asked to give Warner Bros. five 30-second spots a week in its late afternoon TV newscasts to pay for the service. Warner Bros. will then sell that time as an unwired network to national advertisers.
Furthermore, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution sales and Warner Bros. Online media sales will sell national advertisers space on the CityWeb online sites.
"It's a very exciting idea," said Betsy Frank, exec VP-strategic media resources for Zenith Media Services, New York, who has heard the pitch from Warner Bros. "It's an attempt to bring together the strength of Warner Bros. and the Web itself. They seem to be going at it in a very smart way, offering services consumers want rather than having the technology take the lead."
Some of the content CityWeb will provide to the stations' sites includes national news, online chat, national educational services, and original programming for kids, women and men to go with local news, weather, sports and various local listings.
"We'll help stations custom-design a food store, an auto repair shop or a kids store," said Jim Moloshok, senior VP at Warner Bros. Online. For advertisers, "It's like a national spot buy on `Oprah' or `Rosie O'Donnell,"' he said.
National online ad packages carry a price between $250,000 and $2 million. At the higher level, a sponsor could co-brand the education home page, an area that will include a homework-helper search engine and a careers section with a mentor program, after-school job opportunities and summer internships.
`52 WEEKS OF PROGRAMMING'
"Basically, this is 52 weeks of original programming just on this education site that will be labeled with an advertiser's brand," said Julie Kantrowitz, senior VP-general sales manager, media sales, for Warner Bros. Domestic Television. Other sections open for sponsorship focus on such topics as travel, home and auto care.
CNN Interactive's ad sales unit will be selling the ads for its CityWeb pages.
CityWeb has already aligned itself with some major Web players. Lycos will be the preferred search engine for local and national searches, and Netscape Communications Corp. will provide a customized browser.
"Warner Bros. is a powerful partner," said Lycos President Bob Davis. "For the launch of CityWeb they'll be spending in excess of $30 million on TV advertising, and we'll be mentioned."
REVENUE SHARING MODEL
He declined to outline the financial particulars of the deal with Warner Bros., other than to mention that it was a revenue sharing model and that Lycos will be selling the advertising space on the CityWeb Lycos search pages.
"People go to the local TV news leader in a market time and time again because that's where they feel most comfortable," said Scott Carlin, exec VP-Warner Bros. Domestic TV. "We think they'll go to that station's Web site for the same reason . . . CityWeb is a great new business opportunity for us using the skills we've learned in the past 15 to 16 years syndicating TV shows."