'The WB' Reincarnate: Online and On-Demand

Warner Bros. Television Group is resuscitating "The WB" as a video-on-demand and broadband network, with a major assist from Comcast.

The group announced plans Monday to launch TheWB.com, an ad-supported video destination that will debut in early May in beta.

The move brings back a brand that has been dormant for more than two years: In January 2006, Warner Bros. Television Group merged its TV network with CBS's UPN to form The CW. (The placeholder animation on TheWB.com morphs into "We're Back.")

Warner Bros. Television Group president Bruce Rosenblum said TheWB.com represents a new programming platform -- and he's positioning the new "network" as the premiere destination for original dramatic programming on the Internet.

“The launch of TheWB.com represents a natural progression of the Warner Bros. Television Group’s digital strategy and complements our core business, which is based upon episodic storytelling, first-class distribution and providing value to partners through advertising in a premium environment,” Rosenblum said, in a prepared statement.

TheWB.com is aimed at the 16-34 demographic with an emphasis on women, and will comprise four main elements: original programming created or acquired specifically for TheWB.com; the re-release of a collection of The WB Network’s most popular series; a "commitment to interactivity"; and an extensive network of distribution partners. 

The site will revolve around full episodes of Warner Bros. Television Group's shows from the past decade, including Friends, Smallville, One Tree Hill, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The O.C.

Comcast is the "inaugural" distribution partner for TheWB.com, offering more than 1,000 TV episodes from the Warner Bros. library on multiple advertiser-supported platforms, including Fancast.com and its VOD service. 

"For the first time, consumers will have the ability to watch Warner Bros.’ hit series, kids’ shows and classic TV programs wherever and whenever they want to watch them,” Comcast executive vice president of content acquisition Matt Bond said, in a statement. “Adding Warner Bros.’ brand and vast catalog of television entertainment across platforms is part of Comcast’s Project Infinity, our vision to make exponentially more content available to consumers online and on TV.” 

In addition, Comcast and Fancast.com will serve as an inaugural distribution partner for programming from the newly announced KidsWB.com, an ad-supported destination built around youth-oriented, immersive entertainment. 

AOL, a corporate sibling of Warner Bros. Television Group, also will feature a channel to stream full-length episodes of series featured on TheWB.com. Johnson & Johnson has signed on to be the charter sponsor of TheWB.com at launch.

TV series available for free on Fancast.com will include Smallville, One Tree Hill, Friends, The O.C., and Gilmore Girls. Comcast's VOD will feature selected series including The O.C., One Tree Hill and Veronica Mars

Comcast will also have access to more than 700 episodes of classic TV series like CHiPs, Falcon Crest, Alice, The Jetsons, Gilligan’s Island, and Wonder Woman.

Craig Erwich, executive VP of Warner Horizon Television, oversees TheWB.com. “The office water cooler has moved, and fans of TheWB.com can instantly engage with our content and interact with one another through the site, through the Facebook application, or on their own Web sites and blogs," Erwich said, in a statement. 

TheWB.com's original series are scheduled to include shows from director/producer McG (the upcoming Terminator 4) and writer/producer Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl, Chuck, The O.C.). 

Warner Bros. Television Group’s Digital Media Sales group, headed by executive VP Michael Teicher, will handle ad inventory for TheWB.com. Formed in April 2007, Teicher's unit also sells TMZ.com and MomLogic.com.