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Dick Wolf Refashions His Company for Digital Era (EXCLUSIVE)

Dick Wolf’s latest production isn’t centered on the detectives, lawyers, firefighters or cops who have made his many series so popular. The story he wants to tell is much more personal.

The creative force behind TV’s “Law & Order” behemoth, NBC’s various “Chicago” series and the CBS drama “FBI” will today launch a new corporate storyline of sorts, one in which his company seeks to make itself better known to the people who consume its content.

The producer’s Wolf Films will now be called Wolf Entertainment, a move aimed at bolstering a wider array of the company’s productions. Over the next several months, says Elliot Wolf, an executive at the company and a son of the producer, who is overseeing the new efforts, those could include more content aimed at fans of the company’s various series; a monthly newsletter; podcasts, merchandise; spotlights on the creative people who put the shows together; and, starting tonight, at the end of “FBI,” the first new “end card” from the company in nearly three decades.

Wolf, who got his start working for Benton & Bowles and other big ad agencies crafting pitches for products like Crest toothpaste, is now putting those skills to work to spotlight his own goods.  “Branding has always been a focus with our shows. ‘Law & Order,’ ‘One Chicago’ and now ‘FBI’ are more than shows, they’re brands,” Dick Wolf tells Variety via email. “Seeing digital and social media becoming so prevalent, especially with new generations of viewers, I asked Elliot to evaluate Wolf’s brand and presence online. What we found was a huge untapped opportunity to connect with and hear from the fans of our shows. “

TV fans know the names of their video favorites, and, in most cases, the names of the networks and streaming outlets that show them. They are not as familiar, however, with the producers who actually make the series – sometimes with good reason. Very few of Hollywood’s biggest producers reach out to fans directly.

One of the exceptions is Shonda Rhimes, the creative force behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How To Get Away With Murder,” among other selections. Her Shondaland has a lifestyle-focused web outlet hosted by Hearst Magazines. But others are relatively quiet. You’ll find little outreach to fans from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, for example. The web site for Brian Grazer’s and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment features news about the company, a biography of its principals and video snippets. Chuck Lorre Productions collects the many “end cards” it has run after series like “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike and Molly” and even “Dharma & Greg.”

What Wolf wants, says Elliot Wolf, who is the company’s senior vice president of digital,  is to give fans a better connection to the content they love so much – and cultivate a larger following. “We want to give them more, because I think they have an appetite for more, but then we also want to attract new fans, younger fans. It’s not a secret that the average viewership for network TV skews older, and we want to get as many people watching these shows – whether it be live or on Hulu or NBC.com –  as possible,” he says, “If this is going to attract new viewership, that’s a win.”

The newly-christened Wolf Entertainment sets out on this initiative as speculation rises that the streaming rights to the “Law & Order” series empire would fetch millions from one of the many new subscription-video services trying to gain a toe-hold on consumers’ wallets. Popular old series like “Friends,” “The Office” and “Seinfeld” have in recent days spurred massive rights deals, a sign of how important favorite TV series can be to new services that need to give subscribers familiar entertainment touchstones along with buzzy new concepts. A spokesperson for Wolf Entertainment declined to comment.

Defining the Wolf brand would give consumers a convenient way to connect to the company’s current and future projects, says Elliot Wolf.  “We just want to tell stories, and we want to tell stories about heroes – largely first responders and law-enforcement,” he says. “We want to shine a light on people who are doing work that benefits everybody.”

New social-media handles – @WolfEnt on Twitter and @wolfentertainment on Instagram – debut today, along with a new website. A new Facebook page for Wolf Entertainment with the handle @wolfentofficial also launches.

Dick Wolf began pondering the move several months ago, says Elliot Wolf, understanding that the future of the company would be found not just in TV but in many digital venues. “Beyond it being time, it seemed like we were late to the game. I said to Dick, ‘Why be late to the game as Wolf Films, when in reality we are doing so much more than film? Your core business is in film, but why don’t we use this opportunity to change the name of the company to Wolf Entertainment?’ It will encapsulate the things we are going to do and signify a turning of the page.”

As part of the changes, the company is tweaking a bedrock element of its history. It has used the same “end card”  – a video snippet that plays the sound of a keening wolf while flashing the name of the company -since thar piece of video was created just before the elder Wolf turned in the pilot of “Law & Order” for consideration.

The new video tag for Wolf Entertainment has some new markings, but one element remains the same: The audience will still hear the wolf howl.

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