Digital gets high priority

NBC.com hires writers to pen webisodes

While NBC continues its battle for viewers, the net is making a heavy online push as well.

The Peacock’s digital division, under topper Vivi Zigler, has assigned writers to pen web-only episodes to complement existing shows that are intended to help build buzz for comedies “Community,” “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” as well as other skeins.

Scribes are part of the show’s staff and members of the net’s online team, and are embedded in the writers’ room.

“We start early,” says Zigler, whose team is already prepping the digital accompaniments to a handful of upcoming fall skeins, such as serial drama “The Event” and sitcom “Outsourced.” “We want to develop an online experience that’s organic to the show.”

From a business standpoint, the webisodes and other online components are a way to generate ad coin from sponsors and companies trying to reach the 18-34 demo which might not be able to afford or want to take part in an on-air spot.

“Parks and Recreation” exec producer Mike Schur says that he or one of his producers meets regularly with the online writers to make sure the storylines are in sync with the broadcast goings-on.

Among the digital goodies available for NBC.com users are deleted scenes, games and a Pawnee, Ind., Parks Dept. newsletter.

“It’s definitely worth spending the time on,” says Schur. “In this day and age, fans are getting savvier and demand more for their entertainment time, so you have to be giving them more. You can’t just air your show anymore.”

NBC isn’t the only network paying more attention to the online world. ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” has an original web-only storyline about the Seattle Grace interns, and the recently departed skeins “24” and “Lost” were forward-thinking in offering fans completely new material.

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