Warner Brothers has resurrected its defunct WB television network as TheWB.com, a hub for its television shows that launches tomorrow. While a number of networks have offered ad-supported streaming shows for some time, TheWB.com is significantly more feature-rich than its competitors, offering an advanced search engine and allowing users to mashup selected clips from each show.
The most impressive feature found on TheWB is its video search, which allows users to search across many shows on the site for mention of any word or phrase. Digitalsmiths powers the search, automatically transcribing and indexing dialog in each episode. In practice the search seems to work only decently (perhaps around 50% of the time), but when it does work, it’s pretty impressive. I tried testing the search on the show Smallville. While it seemed to have problems with non-dictionary words (Kryptonite got no matches), it did fine with just about everything else (common names like Clark Kent worked well).
The site also allows users to modify selected portions from a number of shows using an embedded version of Adobe Premiere Express. While I could see some avid fans having some fun with this, the editor is clunky and not very intuitive. Still, many sites are hesitant to let viewers create embeddable clips, much less modify them. As for content, at launch TheWB.com includes seasons from Friends, The OC, Veronica Mars, One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Smallville, and a number of other shows, both from The WB and other TV networks. The site will also introduce a number of made-for-web TV series.
While TheWB fares well in terms of features when compared to its competitors, its content still falls well behind the multi-network selection offered by Hulu. That said, it’s always nice to see more (legal) free television on the web, and the advanced search alone could help set TheWB apart from the sites offered by each individual network.