CW Seed, an experimental digital entertainment studio and website, launched Thursday with four original Web shows.
The ambitious effort represents a dramatic increase in the CW television network's investment in original programming for digital platforms. CW intends to roll out fresh episodes each week and add two other Web shows to the site later in the fall.
CW Seed will be anchored by the third season of the cheeky comedy "Husbands," which was formerly on YouTube. "Husbands" tells the story of two young guys (a professional athlete and a tabloid personality) who drunkenly got married in Las Vegas but decide to stay together in support of marriage equality.
The CW's digital studio is part of the TV industry's mission to figure out how to engage younger viewers who are as comfortable watching video on their phones and computers as on traditional TV screens.
The CW, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros., is highly motivated to understand changing consumption patterns because the network targets viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 -- the group that is at the leading edge of the changes.
For example, roughly 20% of CW's audience for its broadcast shows comes courtesy of viewing on alternative screens -- phones, tablets, video game consoles, the network's own website and the online video service Hulu. That gives the network added incentive to provide popular programming tailored for digital devices.
CW formed a digital studio last year, called CWD, which offered the network's first made-for-the-Web series, "Stupid Hype." The show, which was available on the network's main website, takes place in 1990s Los Angeles and features a white rapper. But network executives decided they could better grow new content on a separate platform, dubbed CW Seed, which was built to provide a richer viewing experience on cellphones and tablets.
The network also considers CW Seed as something of an incubator to experiment with concepts, including comedies, which are not an easy fit in its prime-time TV lineup. The Web shows also will attempt to attract 18- to 34-year-old viewers.
In addition to "Husbands" and "Stupid Hype," the site will offer "Backpackers," which features an engaged couple with cold feet, the animated "Gallery Mallory," about a bitter, over-educated and underemployed woman working at a Soho art gallery, and "The P.E.T. Squad Files," which revolves around some misfit former community college students in search of ghosts and other paranormal activity.
Series length will vary by show. For example, "Husbands" and "P.E.T. Squad Files" will have six episodes this season, and "Gallery Mallory" will have eight.
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