Warner Bros. Launches Online Syndication Effort

When Warner Bros. officially rolls out Two and a Half Men for off-network syndication in fall 2007, it will offer stations and cable networks the right to stream five off-network episodes per week on their own Web sites.

Warner Bros. will also provide supplemental content for the Webcasts: outtakes, bloopers and cast interviews—material customarily found on DVDs.

Warner Bros. Television Group President Bruce Rosenblum touts the free on-demand digital plan as “precedent-setting.” Until now, syndicators have been much more cautious than broadcast networks about venturing into new digital territory.

The model allows stations to stream all of the previous week’s episodes of Men for seven days. Cable networks can offer a different week’s worth of episodes on their Websites over the same duration.

Rosenblum says the model, intended to drive traffic to station Web sites, will differ from the networks’. He notes that they use their own Web sites and online companies, rather than affiliates, to stream mostly in-house–produced episodes and promos.

In the coming months, Rosenblum and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (WBDTD) President Dick Robertson will evaluate, on a case by case basis, using a similar strategy for other off-network and first-run shows. The studio, Rosenblum says, is moving to “adapt quickly to the rapidly evolving world of digital distribution.” But he expresses concern about networks’ leaving out content rights-holders from digital plans announced at next week’s upfronts.

Warner Bros. promised that Men buyers would benefit and offered them a 50-50 split on the Web ad inventory. The studio, sweetening the pot at a time when advertisers’ appetites have substantially increased for multiplatform buys, is ramping up to seek what some estimate could be as much as $3.8 million per episode—$2.5 million in cash license fees and the rest in national barter.