The entertainment and pop culture field on the Web is about to get even more crowded. Next month, America Online’s Greenhouse Networks will go after E! Online’s market when it launches Entertainment Asylum both on the Web (www.asylum.com) and on its AOL service. The site will focus on real-time, behind-the-scenes coverage of stars and shows–the format E! Television was built on–as well as offer a personalized movie database similar to E! Online’s Moviefinder.com.
The site is the brainchild of the late Brandon Tartikoff, who was chairman of Entertainment Asylum, and Scott Zakarin, president of programming, who created the online soap The Spot. Monica Dodi, a co-founder of MTV Europe who also helped restructure Walt Disney Co.’s consumer products business in Europe, has been named chief executive of the venture. “Brandon worked with us creatively to create a blueprint, and the vision is done,” Zakarin said. “Now we’re executing it. He had wonderful ideas, and we’ll miss him.”
Part of Tartikoff’s vision for the online medium, Zakarin noted, was to involve the audience in story-telling and use the immediacy of online users’ reactions to influence programming. “We said, what if we could leverage the interactivity online with the biggest stars and studios?”
The competition between E! Online and Entertainment Asylum for advertising will largely be fought over movie tie-ins. E! Online has struck several deals with major studios, such as an interactive promotion in August with PolyGram Films for the thriller The Game that included a contest, banners and tickets on Moviefinder.com. “Hollywood sees a potential for developing on the Web, but they don’t have the traffic or the real estate to develop their properties online,” Dodi said.
E! Online is expected to announce a one-year, 10-picture advertising deal with Sony Pictures this week. Jeremy Verba, president of E! Online, stressed the competitive advantage of cross-promoting the E! Web site on its cable network. “There’s a clear call to action for viewers from the TV network to online and vice versa,” he said. “There’s a symbiotic relationship.” Instead of a television audience, AOL can deploy its 9-million subscriber base to lure studios and networks as sponsors.