Turner Broadcasting is quietly preparing a new digital content venture based on a brand the Time Warner division shuttered seven years ago after a short-lived run.
Super Deluxe, which launched in 2006 as an online hub for original short-form comedy, is the title of a new operation in the early stages of development, according to sources. A rep for Turner declined to comment.
Last month, Turner began staffing up the venture, which is being led by former CBS Films co-president Wolfgang Hammer. He left CBS Corp. over the summer after spending a year working on the company’s digital division, an assignment he was handed after exiting the film unit in 2014.
Turner isn’t expected to fulfill the original mission of Super Deluxe, which will operate independently from the corporation. But there’s a few clues beyond the image of the Post-It note parked as a placeholder on the brand’s URL.
Another former CBS Films exec, Winnie Kemp, who is now VP of originals at Super Deluxe, has been making the rounds in recent weeks among the usual suspects in digital content production in search of scripted short-form comedy programming that is “emotionally meaningful,” a departure from the raunchier content common online.
But Turner’s application for Super Deluxe’s trademark describes a somewhat broader mandate than just comedy, including “action and adventure,” as part of its creative mandate.
Super Deluxe launched in January 2007 as something akin to Funny Or Die, an ad-supported website for edgy humor aimed at the 18-34 male demographic already thought to be spurning TV for online. But the venture was folded into another Turner property, Adult Swim, just 18 months later.
Super Deluxe may not necessarily be the brand name Turner intends to go forward with considering the venture barely lasted long enough to achieve much name recognition.
The project falls under the aegis of someone who wasn’t at Turner when Super Deluxe first launched: Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT. What remains to be seen is whether Super Deluxe 2.0 may be in the vein of the digital strategy Reilly employed at Fox, where he staked multiple properties intended as an alternate route to development for the primetime schedule.
Super Deluxe could end being both a branded dotcom destination and — in success — an internal incubator for creative concepts that get tested in short form before getting greenlit as long-form series for a comedy channel like TBS.
That’s the approach Reilly took at Fox, where he exited in May 2014 after serving as entertainment chairman for the broadcast network. In keeping with an exec best remembered for attempting to pull Fox out of the traditional pilot season that drives most series development, Reilly was one of the few channel chiefs who tried to mine digital platforms for material he could use on air, going so far as to retool his programming unit to have more of a multiplatform focus.
The best example was Animation Domination High-Def, which doubled as a weekly late-night TV block and a branded dot-com destination. But after premiering in 2013, ADHD lasted one season on TV before moving over to sister cable network FXX.
Reilly also made other moves intended to spur digital-to-TV migration at Fox, including taking a stake in scripted-drama outfit Wigs and signing Andy Samberg’s production company, the Lonely Island, to an alternative development deal. But neither of these deals bore fruit for Fox’s primetime schedule.
Turner hasn’t been as active with regard to digital content beyond sports properties like the partnership with WME/IMG to launch a new eSports league announced last month. The company took an investment in Funny Or Die in 2012, but hasn’t launched its own digital brands since Super Deluxe.