Amazon on the air

Web Site will produce Maher-hosted Net yakker

Amazon.com is going from e-tailer to e-caster.

World’s biggest online store will produce and exclusively air this summer a half-hour show hosted by Bill Maher focused on books, movies and music.

It’s part of a bigger strategy by Amazon.com to produce an array of entertainment content that will draw potential customers and could turn into a profitable production business of its own.

“Amazon Fishbowl With Bill Maher” will feature the “Real Time” host delivering a monologue, interviewing guests from the book and movie world and presenting a band. Show will stream live from L.A. Thursdays at 8 p.m. starting June 1 on Amazon.com and then be available on-demand.

To get viewers to watch live, Amazon.com will integrate interactive elements, which could include online polls or questions via email or instant messenger.

Netco is producing the show along with Billy Martin, exec producer of “Real Time” on HBO.

Though the skein doesn’t debut until June, Amazon is producing a “preview” at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday, with Maher interviewing author Stephen King and musician Rob Thomas as well as scribe Armistead Maupin and star Toni Collette of Sundance pic “The Night Listener.” It will be available on-demand soon after at Amazon’s site.

Though “Fishbowl” will undoubtedly draw customers to Amazon, Netco is aiming to sell in-show sponsorships that could make the skein operate in the black. UPS is already aboard for a segment in which celebs will deliver a package along with a UPS driver.

“Fishbowl” marks the biggest move yet for Amazon in the entertainment space. First forays in the past couple of years have included a series of short films on its site and an online short film festival it sponsored with the Tribeca fest.

“We have the simple but powerful opportunity to create original programming that offers an opportunity for our customers to discover new artists and products,” said Amazon VP for strategic communication, content and initiatives Kathy Savitt. “If our customers are delighted with (‘Fishbowl’), we can go ahead with other programming we have in development.”

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