And NBC isn't the only network pursuing Web originals for the new year; CBS also is gearing up to launch original Web projects in 2009.
NBC is developing four Web shows for next year with advertisers already on board, and will pitch another five digital series to marketers starting in January. That five-pack includes the online late-night talk show, which will be hosted by a woman and targeted to female viewers.
Meanwhile, CBS has at least two Web originals in the hopper for 2009, including a Web companion series for the midseason replacement show "Harper's Island."
At first blush, an aggressive Web-original strategy might seem foolish given the contracting ad market and broader concerns about the long-term health of traditional media companies. But the focus on Web originals at CBS and NBC is rooted in what has become a profitable ad format for Web video—brand integration. Many advertisers are eager to back branded Web shows because ads that are baked into the content are DVR-proof.
Also, Web shows are faster and easier to produce than on-air programs, which lets programmers and marketers make quick changes if need be, said Anthony Soohoo, senior VP and general manager of entertainment for CBS Interactive. "The Web allows us to nimbly adjust our scripts based on what the audience is seeing, and it lets the sponsors adapt to the needs of the audience," he said. "Advertisers are always looking to extend their brands in new innovative ways, and Web originals let a brand be associated with a storyline and have some type of voice in the creative process."