Time Warner entertainment site to launch Monday

Time Warner is expected to launch its much-awaited Entertaindom next week, a debut that will be the first indication of the giant's push to redefine its online strategy.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
covers home broadband services and the Net's portal giants.
Jim Hu
3 min read
Time Warner on Monday is expected to launch a much-awaited Web site promoting its entertainment programming, a debut that will be the first indication of the giant's push to redefine its online strategy.

Entertaindom.com will be Time Warner's first major Web launch since revamping its Internet strategy earlier this year, Warner Bros. Online executives said. In April, the company said it was planning to introduce a handful of sites, or "vertical hubs," that focus on news, finance, sports, lifestyle and entertainment. Warner Bros. is a division of Time Warner.

At the time, the company said it was intent on building five targeted sites, rather than an all-encompassing Web portal such as Yahoo or Lycos, to gain better control over its plodding Web strategy. Time Warner's unwieldy and expensive precursor to Web portals--Pathfinder--has since been shut down.

But now the entertainment giant has honed its original strategy to three hubs: Entertaindom; a news, information and sports hub; and a personal finance hub, according to Ed Adler, a Time Warner spokesman.

"The whole process is in evolution, but we have three areas of focus," he said. Adler would not give a launch date for the remaining two sites.

The idea behind the hubs is to pull content from Time Warner's bevy of brands and fit it into each of these three sites. For example, stories from CNN and Time Magazine would be packaged in the news hub. Features from Fortune and financial headlines from CNNfn would go into the finance hub.

Entertaindom will be the first Web site to highlight Time Warner's new approach to promoting its brands and content.

"One of the great advantages that we have is we have established brands and we are bringing some of those brands to the Internet by using [the Web]," Jim Moloshok, president of Warner Bros. Online, said in an interview.

Entertaindom, now in preview, also will include original programming--ranging from short films by Atom Films to Looney Tunes classics. Visitors can watch the programs through a variety of technologies, including Web video streaming, Flash technology or 3-D streaming software by Brilliant Digital Entertainment.

One such program is called the "God and Devil Show." The program, shown in Flash technology, is a cartoon talk show featuring caricatures of God and the devil. A cartoon Keith Richards will be the show's first guest, followed by Gandhi and John Wayne in coming weeks. At the end of the show, viewers can vote to send the guest to heaven or to hell.

Other program channels include new episodes with Marvin the Martian, the popular Looney Tunes cartoon character; a 3-D version of the Superman comic series; a program for classic music and television clips called "Rhino Retro" produced by Warner Bros.' Rhino Records division; and "Ask Dr. Science," in which readers send random questions to be answered by "Duck's Breath," an improvisational comedy troupe.

Entertaindom also will use its Looney Tunes characters in a tutorial about how to use the Internet. The characters will explain technologies such as modems and Flash to users in a "mini cartoon" form.

Entertaindom will offer news and headlines from sources including Time's Entertainment Weekly, Reuters, Variety and CNN. The site also will include Web services such as auctions by eBay, horoscopes, television listings and site personalization.

According to Moloshok, the site will generate revenue through advertising and retail purchases and eventually by charging fees for premium content. For example, Entertaindom may charge users a fee for viewing an archived cartoon or listening to a preview of an upcoming album.

Although Time Warner commands a considerable amount of well-known entertainment content, some analysts question whether traditional media companies are employing too many offline tactics to attract Web users.

Anya Sacharow, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, said what works on television may not work on the Web. "Entertainment online is not a strictly sit-back narrative-based experience," she said, "[which is] something that traditional media companies are trying to grapple with and are slowly trying to understand."