The WB is back ... almost - VIDEO
I've long since given up hope for those flying cars we were all supposed to be piloting in the new millennium. Now, I'll settle for that other years ago future dream, all of TV at your fingertips whenever you want it. We're still a ways away from that one, but the new WB is another step in that direction.
The site is still in beta, so the amount of content leaves a little to be desired, but most of it seems to be working, and it gives a good idea of what will be waiting for everybody when the site goes live. They finally came through with my beta invite, and I've been poking around. Hit the gallery for the bigger screen shots of the various areas and interface, and join me after a jump for a quick tour in text. A word of warning, the embedded video after the jump will autostart. Beta.
Gallery: thewb.com: Screen Shots
The first thing you notice as you log in is that the site is very flashy. Characters from the various shows are floating in and out of the window. There's just a lot going on. It's impressive looking at first, but something I think that novelty will wear off quickly for most. You can get a look at the flashy graphics, and sign up for the beta, if you head over to beta.thewb.com. Luckily, there is plenty more to get to. As of now, the site is divided into eight different sections.
Shows: As you would guess, the link takes you to a page listing all of the shows on the site. Right now those shows include The OC, Smallville, All Of Us, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friends, Dangerous, The Wayans Bros. Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Blue Water High, and The WB.com Originals.
Hovering over the tabs for the shows plays a clip, and clicking any of those will take you to the page for the show. Right now each of the shows have about five episodes available. Obviously, that's going to need to be upped for the site to compete with the other sites doing this, but I'm sure that's in the cards for the official launch.
Video: The video page gives you links back to the various show pages on the right, and a video window on the left that plays promos for them. I don't quite get why you would use it. It seems to me that the people heading to thewb.com are going to have an idea what they are looking for. Perhaps once the originals come online it will serve more of a purpose to give you a peek at something you are not already familiar with.
Originals: Currently there are six shows listed on the originals page. Those are Sorority 4 Ever, Untitled Schwartz Project, Exposed, High Drama Despite All Oz, Lock Down, and Rich Girl, Poor Girl. Unfortunately, they are all still listed as coming soon, so we'll have to wait and see if there is a gem hidden in there.
Games: The games are rather simple, but hold the potential for a nice diversion from work, if you are looking for one. They mostly play on the same games you've seen bouncing around the internet for years. Who is your best match in Tree Hill? It turns out mine is Peyton. There is also an OC memory match, some Friends trivia in Professor Gellar's Pop Quiz, pop culture trivia with Gilmore Girls, Buffy's Crossbow Attack, and Smallville's Escape From Luthorcorp.
Celebs & Stars: This looks to be a portal for entertainment news and video. For now it is pulling news and videos from TMZ.com. I don't see myself making use of this, because I already get more entertainment news than the average bear from other outlets, but it could be useful for some. I'll be curious to see how that section expands.
WBlender: Another incomplete section, the WBlender will let you mix, mash, and blend videos from the site into your own creations which you can then share. There are a couple of examples. One has the Friends theme song redone with each word cut out of a scene from the show. The other is a collection of the many instances of Joey saying "How you doin'?"
Video Search: This is a section that really has potential. You choose a show and you can search the episodes for the text you are looking for. I picked a random quote from Gilmore Girls with Lorelai telling Rory, "You got your fabulous flair from me." The engine correctly picked "Kill Me Now."
Talk Back: As the name suggests, the fine folks at WB are looking for feedback.
So, that's the basics of the layout. All things considered I'm pretty impressed with what they have so far. It's a nice looking site, with some decent extras tossed in. But really, all of that stuff is mostly incidental. The site will sink or swim based on the content, and the player. Assuming that those episode counts grow, they should be in pretty good shape.
The player works exactly as you would expect, and the quality is in the same ballpark with its online rivals. I watched "Welcome To The Hellmouth" again, because you just can't see it too many times. While you won't confuse it with your DVDs, it played back smoothly and the quality held up when expanded to full screen. If you watch it in the browser window there is also a section below that toggles between a synopsis of the episode and random bits of trivia. In addition, they have the bonus of letting you share videos in a variety of ways. You can send them to your facebook profile, email a friend, or embed them in your site. I've added "Welcome To The Hellmouth" at the end of the post so you can have a look at the quality. It works well, except for that autostart thing.