In a deal that will add hundreds of Hollywood classics to its library, FilmStruck, the Turner-owned SVOD service for film aficionados, has inked an exclusive streaming deal with Warner Bros. Digital Networks (WBDN) that adds hundreds of Hollywood classics to its subscription VOD library, including Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and An American in Paris.
FilmStruck also announced TCM Select, a new curated collection of “iconic films from the Golden Age of Hollywood” that will be complemented by introductions from Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, along with archival content and other bonus materials. FilmStruck is also pushing ahead with new curated themes around classic Hollywood such as Rogers & Astaire: The Complete Collection, Neo-Noir, and a Star of the Week theme featuring Bette Davis, Hepburn & Tracy and Ava Gardner, among others.
Amid the new content and distribution partnership, Warner Archive, an SVOD service that was launched in April 2013, will be sunset, and current customers will be transitioned to a FilmStruck subscription.
Warner Archive has been selling for $9.99 per month or $94.99 per year. By comparison, FilmStruck’s baseline service starts at $6.99 per month (and now includes TCM Select), or $10.99 per month or $99 per year when FilmStruck is combined with The Criterion Channel. FilmStruck is adding the new Warner Bros. titles without raising the price on the service
WBDN said the decision to team up with FilmStruck made sense on several levels as it mulled whether to have Warner Archive continue on as a stand-alone service.
“We had a decision to make -- we were either going to get really serious about it and put our iconic films to work and put more films on the service and build a better consumer experience or we were going to partner with Turner,” Craig Hunegs, president of WBDN and president, business strategy for Warner Bros. Television Group, said.
Following discussions with Turner, including with Coleman Breland, president of Turner Classic Movies, FilmStruck and Turner Content Experiences, “We realized that rather than having two services that overlap with each other [with respect to the fan base], let’s put them together and make on undeniable film service for fans who love the greatest movies…It made all the sense in the world to partner on this.”
“It is the absolutely right step to take,” added Breland, noting that FilmStruck has been building up its library through partnerships with a wide range of studios, including Sony, MGM, Lionsgate, Universal and Paramount.
The streaming content deal marks the latest partnership between Turner and Warner Bros.
Last month, they formed a joint venture that will extend FilmStruck internationally, starting in the U.K. They are also partnered on an OTT-delivered SVOD version of Boomerang that launched last April.
Breland said the new partnership will help FilmStruck adds films from the Golden Age of Hollywood and help it continue to focus on what it views as an underserved category of independent and arthouse films, and expand that content slate without raising the price on the service.
He estimates that FilmStruck will now be offering more than 1,800 titles per month via a curated library that will be rotated and refreshed each month.
He said the addition of TCM Select will focus on 26 “iconic” titles, plus the bonus elements. “The titles are critical,” Breland said. “It’s not just the titles; it’s how they are actually positioned.”
FilmStruck, which launched its U.S. offering in November 2016, has not announced subscriber numbers, but Breland said he likes the trajectory of those numbers so far and that retention on annual subscriptions to the service have been “incredibly high.”
Warner Archive likewise doesn’t disclose specific sub numbers, but Hunegs said the size of the service’s base is in the tens of thousands.
To help with the transition, existing Warner Archive customers are being offered two free months of the FilmStruck + The Criterion Channel offering. After April 26, Warner Bros. will no longer support subscribers on the Warner Archive platform, though all current subscriptions to that service will be honored on FilmStruck.
The content partnership between FilmStruck and Warner Bros. and the sunsetting of the Warner Archive service also follows a wider trend in the exploding SVOD sector, which is undergoing a correction of sorts as some services get shut down while others, as in this case, continue on via newly formed partnerships.
For more on that trend, please see this week’s cover story in Broadcasting & Cable.
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Meanwhile, Breland believes FilmStruck’s approach and focus is well-positioned for the long term. “We don't think of FilmStruck as just an SVOD service,” he said. “It’s not about taking a linear brand and forcing it into an SVOD slot. This is about serving the fans in a way that they want it."