Why Time Warner Now Owns Three Streaming Services
The network's Feb. 23 acquisition of DramaFever, which specializes in international programming, is the latest addition to its series of niche streamers.
This story first appeared in the March 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Time Warner's latest salvo in the battle against cord-cutters: buying a streaming service specializing in Korean soap operas.
Warner Bros.' Feb. 23 deal to acquire the streamer DramaFever might seem a bit unorthodox because it provides primarily English-language audiences access to international programming. But the real play is for the New York-based company's technology and its ambitions to operate a slate of streaming channels. It already powers horror-themed Shudder, which former DramaFever investor AMC launched in the summer, and the documentary streaming service SundanceNow Doc Club.
Given Warner Bros.' expansive library, it should come as no surprise that DramaFever will tap into that content for future niche subscription offerings.
"We have the full tool kit in-house along with the team to be able to launch a bunch of services with Warner Bros. content or other people's content," says DramaFever CEO Seung Bak. "That was the thesis behind the whole transaction."
Drexel Hamilton media analyst Tony Wible believes Warner Bros. could launch a stand-alone service based around its DC Comics properties. The studio also could explore a subscription offering for The CW (which it co-owns with CBS) after its current licensing agreements with Netflix and Hulu expire. "Anything is up for exploration," says Bak. "The Warner Bros. library is so vast that we're going to look at everything."
The deal, of which financial details weren't disclosed, gives Time Warner a streaming option at each of its major divisions: Turner Broadcasting owns a majority stake in live online video technology provider iStreamPlanet, and last year HBO went over the top with stand-alone HBO Now.
A series of niche streaming services based on Warner Bros. IP could give something for Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes to tout as he battles a volatile climate for media companies amid concerns over cable subscription declines.
Right now, his best bet remains HBO Now, says Wible: "It's their primary way of trying to monetize viewers that have either gone to a slimmer package or are looking to cut the cord."