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Warner Takes A Dive Into Internet Territory

sing.jpgWarner Premiere, the production arm of Warner Home Video, is branching out into live-action webisodes with some help from “Superman Returns” director Bryan Singer, the Hollywood Reporter proclaims.

Premiere is in discussions with the helmer’s Bad Hat Harry Prods. to develop the apocalyptic sci-fi thriller “H+,” with the intent to supplement Premiere’s roster of direct-to-DVD titles with a slate of original programs intended for digital platforms.

While Premiere’s previous efforts on DVD and digital are mostly based on existing intellectual property, “H+” represents an opportunity to introduce new material.

“We knew from the beginning of setting up Warner Premiere that digital would be a big emphasis for us,” Premiere president Diane Nelson said. “The best way to get learnings for the studio to act on in the future is to dabble in a lot of different things now.”

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On the digital front to date, Premiere has released so-called “motion comics” based on existing franchises “Batman,” “Peanuts” and “Watchmen,” and more will come including a “Superman”-branded release. But the animated fare will begin to be balanced with live-action fare including “H+” that could bring Premiere’s digital slate to more than 20 projects during the next 12 months.

“H+” centers on the aftermath of an act of cyber terrorism that kills off a segment of the world population who elected to hardwire their brains to the Internet.

Executive producers and writers are John Cabrera and Cosimo De Tommaso, who first pitched the project to Bad Hat as a TV series but were persuaded to convert it to a digital-friendly format with help from Lydia Antonini, director of digital development at Premiere.

Still early in the development process, the distribution strategy, episode total and length has yet to be determined, though “H+” should roll out before the end of 2009. “H+” also will need a cast and director; Singer is not expected to serve in that capacity.

Premiere won’t divulge the budget for “H+” but it is not believed to be a record setter by any means.

“H+” is not the first time Warners has leaned on established talent from its film division to help launch Web product. Warner Bros. Television Group enlisted “Charlie’s Angels” director McG to executive produce webisode series “Sorority Forever” for theWB.com. Although WBTVG and Premiere are separate units, Premiere output could end up on theWB.com.

While launching original digital programming has proven to be a tough nut to crack so far, efforts like “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon have proved that people behind the camera with an existing fan base can bring an audience to new material.

“In the digital space, we think creators as the brand equity can be an angle we can capitalize on more effectively,” Nelson said.

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