February 12, 2019
WarnerMedia is launching a proprietary over-the-top video platform in the fourth quarter featuring catalog content from subsidiaries HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner.
The unnamed service plans to roll out original fare beginning in 2020, according to Kevin Reilly, president of TBS, TNT and head of content and strategy at the new service.
Speaking Feb. 11 at the Television Critics Association annual winter tour in Los Angeles, Reilly said the service would be beta-launched featuring catalog fare from Warner, Warner Bros. Television, New Line Cinema, HBO and Turner subsidiaries such as Adult Swim, The CW, and Cartoon Network, among others.
“Our beta will not have original programming, but we will introduce it in 2020,” Reilly said. “Expect it in all the verticals: kids and family, teens up to adult.”
While traditional media and OTT services scramble to produce differentiating distribution platforms featuring original content, WarnerMedia intends to walk the fine line between licensing and restricting programming to third-party services.
WarnerMedia made news last year renewing the coveted “Friends” catalog to Netflix for one year for a reported $100 million. It was a move that contradicted in part CEO John Stankey’s stated mission to restrict proprietary programming to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other services not named Hulu.
WarnerMedia is a co-owner of Hulu with Disney, Fox and Comcast.
“The dynamic those [SVOD] incumbents are playing with are still 75% to 80% of viewing tonnage is that licensed content,” Stankey told analysts last November. “Their pressure is they’ve got to make this pivot to get people off of viewing content that sits in our library, or the Disney library, and get it onto their own.”
Reilly concurs, saying he expects the “crown jewels” of Warner programming to eventually migrate predominantly to the new service.
“We’re not pulling it away [from third parties] but it certainly is something we’re looking to do,” he said. “I think for the most part sharing destination assets [like ‘Friends’] is not a good model. They should be exclusive to the [new] service.”
The executive said the service would also feature shows such as “Titans,” “Doom Patrol” and pending “Swamp Thing,” heretofore exclusive to DC Universe, the SVOD service launched last year.
“There is no piece of content in the Warner Media portfolio that will not be looked at for the service,” Reilly said. “That doesn’t mean every piece of content will end up on the service or end up on the service permanently. Content goes through a natural life cycle at which it benefits at times being off a platform or being on a new platform.”