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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Warner Bros. & the Internet

The NY Times has a lengthy article today about the renewed focus on content at Time Warner. (The headline is 'Holy Cash Cow, Batman! Content is Back at Time Warner'.)

What's most interesting about the article is that Warner Bros. executives either aren't talking much about creating original content for the Internet ... the reporter didn't ask ... or the info simply didn't wind up in the story.

Instead, it sounds like Warner Bros. is mainly focused on using the Internet to distribute movies and TV shows. They're also a bit obsessed, like all studios, with stopping digital piracy.

Tim Arango writes:

    The future, most agree, is seamless distribution of films to television using Internet technology. But the big question facing Hollywood is, how far off is that future?

    That transition will be, and is, wrenching because studio executives must walk a fine line between preserving the traditional business, which still amounts to a vast majority of revenue and profits, and experimenting with new ways of distribution.

What about new ways of creating content? While 'The Dark Knight' is going to be one of the biggest big-budget hits of all time, there must be ways of telling stories for the Web and mobile devices that don't require a $185 million up-front investment (and that's before marketing).


If Warner Bros.' top execs aren't thinking hard about that opportunity, I'd say that leaves a pretty big opening for independent content creators, wouldn't you?

Actually, there is a Warner Bros. venture to create original content for the Web, but it hasn't been making many waves since it started two years ago. It's called Studio 2.0. Here's one example of what they've done. Another project, T Works, was supposed to launch this spring, but is still "coming soon."

Here's an earlier Times article about Warner's original content creation efforts. Perhaps the highest-profile effort so far has been the 10-episode series Viralcom. On YouTube, the ten episodes have about 900,000 views altogether.

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  • Gee,

    Jeannie Tate = a show about making a TV show in a minivan.

    Viralcom = a show about making web shows.

    Can we please get some originality here? Waitress?

    By Blogger Cunningham, at 10:51 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 3:44 AM  

  • Hi Scott,

    I just finished your blog post 'Warner Bros. & the Internet' and your book, and had to respond. In the book, each advance in motion picture production, from sound to color to widescreen to digital, has led to a richer, more immersive experience -- elevating the game. Movies are generally about taking us away from the ordinary, and there are few better recent examples of that than 'The Dark Knight'.

    The online projects aren't taking off because they are going the wrong direction. The 'Jeannie Tate' show doesn't provide much in the way of escapism, and it feels like something that its own creators would make excuses about. I think the execs believe that 'online' is a diminutive term. What the online world really needs is some shows that step up to the plate and kick some a**.

    I admit a vested interest in this; we at Lightcraft build systems that I think are going to elevate the game of smaller budget productions. My hope is that these shows will eventually have the best of both worlds: the risk taking nature of the indie and the polished look of larger productions. Will the scope equal 'Dark Knight' levels? No. However, we can do far, far better than the current anemic offerings, and compensate for the slight drop in production value with elevated levels of creative risk-taking in the story creation and acting. After all, the real showstopper in 'Dark Knight' was pretty much Heath Ledger and $50 worth of theatrical makeup.

    This is what I term the 'elevation of the indie', and this is where I see online content jumping into the fray -- it will become the high risk startup of the movie industry. To win, however, online has to come in swinging instead of shuffling.


    By Blogger Unknown, at 3:50 AM  

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