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Warner plugs CityWeb service

Warner Bros. announces CityWeb, its Internet content service for local television stations. The pitch: locally branded sites, shared ad revenues.

Warner Bros. Online today announced a service called CityWeb that would provide local television stations with content for sites on the Internetstarting this summer, confirming a report by CNET last week.

Warner Bros. recently has been briefing TV executives on the plan, but today made its strategy public. "CityWeb allows a television station to evolve its present franchise for servicing its community into the interactive world," said Jim Moloshok, senior vice president for Warner Bros. Online, which is owned by Time Warner.

The content would be branded with the local affiliate's name, and the two parties would share advertising revenues. Marrying the Internet with television is a business model that is growing increasingly popular for companies from Silicon Valley to Hollywood.

Online services also have been luring some viewers away from television, and ventures such as CityWeb are meant to help prevent TV stations from losing out, Moloshok said.

As expected, CityWeb will draw on Time Warner's wealth of resources in news, weather, sports, and entertainment, much of which is offered under the Pathfinder megasite. Included will be CNN Interactive and People Online, among others. It also will develop original content for men, women, children, and teens, as well as local and national classified advertising. Online commerce will also be offered.

Local classified ad sales are a $13.7 billion business for local newspapers.

The venture also has struck technology partnerships with Netscape and Lycos, as well as the TV distribution expertise of Telepictures Distribution. CityWeb plans to include a customized version of its Communicator as the official browser for the online network, and Netscape will include CityWeb on its own Web site.

Warner Bros. steadfastly declined to comment on the program until today. But it has quietly posted a CityWeb site that offers a map of the United States with contacts for the program. Those contacts, who appear to be advertising account representatives, also declined comment.

Television executives who had been briefed said Warner Bros. was pitching editorial content that would let them set up a "TV-style" Web site, as one of them put it. "There was a lot of stuff," one executive said. "It seemed pretty good, but there are other choices."

CNN, which is also owned by Time Warner, and Fox are selling a similar service. The Associated Press is offering online content to TV outlets as well, he said. Moloshok contended that CityWeb will be more comprehensive, however.

TV stations see the Web sites as potential moneymakers. One San Francisco Bay Area television station, KPIX, has reported substantial financial success with its Web site.