Brand new battle online

WB: Protect trademarks

Warner Bros. Online prexy Jim Moloshok issued a battle cry Friday at the Variety Interactive Marketing Summit in Rancho Mirage, declaring that the major studios should unite to stop competing online companies from using their brands to help build their businesses.

“We’re giving away content for free, or it’s being stolen, that’s being used to build successful companies online,” Moloshok said. “Our brands are being used to create value for others. We need to create tools that seize that content back. We need to reclaim the rights we are losing to our competitors on the Web.”

Moloshok cited the ever-expanding Real Networks and as online examples of firms that use studio-produced content for free, promising they will promote the product while collecting ad-based revenues for themselves.

Moloshok also pointed to GeoCities, Tripod and Angel Fire, which enable Internet users to create their own Web sites for their favorite film, television and music figures, usually by taking photos as well as using audio and video clips from the studios.

Exploiting fan sites

GeoCities advertises on the sites built by its subscribers, but Warner Bros., for example, does not see any of the advertising revenues for a GeoCities fan site dedicated to “Batman.”

Moloshok said a recent search on GeoCities found more than 50,000 “Batman”-related sites and a total of 427,859 sites for 28 Warner properties, most of them comic-book based. Many of the sites featured national advertisers pushing their products.

But Moloshok said the problem isn’t only Warners’. A similar search found 227,091 sites for eight Paramount-owned properties, 103,907 sites for eight MGM-owned properties, 63,918 sites for Sony sites and a whopping 423,679 sites for eight Fox brands.

“Entertainment companies can’t shut down fan sites,” Moloshok said. “That would have a negative impact on us. But we can create better environments where they can set up their sites and allow us to protect our brands.”

According to a study conducted by online researcher Cyber Dialog, about 70% of Internet users go online for entertainment content.

Capitalizing on familiarity

“As the mainstream public goes online and replaces early adopters, they’re going to be looking for familiar brands,” Moloshok said. “We can capitalize on that.”

“We need to stop giving our content away,” he added. “We must protect ourselves. We have the assets, we have the brand power. We have the minds of the mainstream.”

Moloshok said studios have long been “apathetic, complacent, slow and lethargic” in turning their online efforts from promotional presences to businesses.

Up to now, Internet companies have been giving away content, from photos and audio clips to film trailers, in return for promotional support.

To combat the problem, Moloshok cites its 2-month-old ACMEcity as a tool to protect its brands. The site enables users to create fan sites similar to those on GeoCities, but Warners monitors the sites 24 hours a day and provides approved photos and other content for Web site creators.

The studio is in talks with other studios to also feature their brands on ACMEcity.

“We built the environment to protect our brands,” Moloshok said.

Since its launch ACMEcity has attracted 175,000 people to create more than 400,000 Web sites. Looney Tunes is the most popular, with over 18,000 sites created.

“We, as studios, can use our brands and strengths to fight the other companies who are taking advantage of our properties,” Moloshok said. “We’ve traditionally looked at short-term gains instead of the long term future. There comes a time when we have to stop being slow and lazy.”

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