WBTVG teams with Essence for Web portal

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NEW YORK -- Warner Bros. Television Group is launching a series of initiatives in conjunction with Essence magazine, the companies said Monday, with an aim to make its Web site the top destination for black women and to take its content to television.

In the first step of the partnership, Essence.com will relaunch in the summer in collaboration with WBTVG's Telepictures Prods. The site will have news, video and community features focused on black women, with updates throughout the day.

"We have an overall strategy of developing premium ad-supported destinations around demographics," WBTVG president Bruce Rosenblum said. "When we saw the opportunity to work with the tremendous team behind Essence, we jumped at it."

WBTVG and Essence Communications are owned by Time Warner.

Telepictures, along with Time Warner's AOL, is the company behind TMZ.com, and this new venture hopes to emulate the success of that gossip site. The companies are looking to bring the Essence brand to television, also like TMZ, whose syndicated show debuted last year.

While the companies wouldn't say anything specific, Telepictures president Hilary Estey McLoughlin said she sees opportunities for Essence on cable and broadcast with specials and potentially a series. She also hopes to bring Essence contributors to Telepictures shows, which include "The Tyra Banks Show" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and to "saturate the media" with the Essence brand, similar to what the company has done with TMZ.

In addition, Essence will work with Telepictures' celebrity news show "Extra." The first collaborative project will be "Extra on Essence," a digital shortform series hosted by "Extra" correspondent Tanika Ray.

Essence has a monthly circulation of about 1 million. Editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray said the site receives about 650,000 visitors per month, and with Telepictures on board, she hopes to "grow that aggressively."

Estey McLoughlin said that black women have been underserved on the Web, and she hopes to turn the revamped Essence into the "definitive site" for that demographic.

WBTVG and Telepictures also recently launched MomLogic.com, a mother-focused online destination and ad network.

According to Nielsen Online, social network BlackPlanet is the top site, proportionately, among black females, with that group comprising nearly 48% of the site's 1 million visitors in March. Time Warner's AOL BlackVoices was second, with black women making up about 26% of that site's audience in March, which numbered 3.8 million.

WBTVG and Telepictures also recently launched MomLogic.com, a mother-focused online destination and ad network.
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