The latest entrant in the populous SVOD marketplace aims to be neither a Netflix killer nor a “me-too” offering, but rather a complement to viewers’ existing subscriptions and on-demand choices. Tribeca Shortlist is a joint venture of Lionsgate and Tribeca Enterprises, the New York media company founded by Robert De Niro and his producing partner, Jane Rosenthal. While both Tribeca and Lionsgate have existing film slates they distribute across a range of VOD platforms, the new service draws from a wider range of studio sources.
Launched Oct. 1, Shortlist offers about 150 films in all, presented through the signature feature of a recommendation engine that consists of actual recommendations by a dozen tastemakers and celebrities. The recommenders, including actors John Leguizamo and Matthew Modine, Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper and documentarian Morgan Spurlock, create lists of a handful of favorites arranged by theme. Short videos of them explaining their picks play before the features, à la Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies. These intros are skippable, but Tribeca Shortlist president Jeff Bronikowski sees them as a potent weapon in the discovery wars.
“We want to get people out of the search spiral that they’re in,” Bronikowski said. “They’re spending an endless amount of time scrolling through rows and rows of movies and we want to encourage people to take a minute and get a little more insight.”
The service costs $4.99 a month for now, but the subscription will rise to $5.99 in 2016. Content is viewable on iPad and Apple TV, Chromecast and via the Tribeca Shortlist website. Unlike the higher-stakes output deals that see film titles come and go from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, Tribeca Shortlist isn’t built on multi-year portfolio rights agreements. About one-third of its offerings will be refreshed each month, and titles will be tagged “departing soon” on the platform to alert viewers of impending fade-outs.
For now, the roster consists of library fare well past the first SVOD window. The slate includes classics such as Annie Hall, The Hurt Locker, Good Will Hunting, Lawrence of Arabia and Raging Bull. (About 20 titles at launch come from the Lionsgate stable.) Starting next year, films that Tribeca Shortlist is acquiring on the festival circuit and via other means will have their SVOD premieres on the service after limited theatrical runs.
Bronikowski, who was hired last spring after running IAC’s subscription streaming fitness service DailyBurn and holding down prior exec posts at Universal Music Group, Yahoo and HBO, sees a cinephile niche in the current landscape. The initial pool of 150 titles “might grow over time,” he said. “We think that’s a pretty good number in terms of it being a manageable catalog. We want people to experience our curation and not just be inundated. Most people watch a handful of movies a month on their SVOD service, based on the data we have. We think with our catalog, you’ll be able to watch five or 10 movies a month and see it as a tremendous value.” It’s “basically for people who aren’t satisfied with the movie offerings on some of the larger SVOD services out there or who want a more curated approach.”
While mobile platforms are certainly crucial to the rollout, with two more major streaming distribution partners to be announced in November and iPhone capability coming in December, Bronikowski says the living room is a cornerstone for Tribeca Shortlist.
“Most people when they’re viewing long-form content do like to see it on their TV,” he said. “Streaming platforms are great for easy access and discovery. I really enjoy browsing on an iPad on our app and then AirPlaying to Apple TV on the big screen. It’s a little bit of a better experience than browsing on a lot of TV devices.”
MVPDs are already in business with both Tribeca Enterprises, which launched its Tribeca Film distribution label in 40 million U.S. homes in 2010, and Lionsgate, home to major film franchises like The Hunger Games. They may also be potential outlets for Tribeca Shortlist, but not in the near term. “There could be opportunities through the set-top box, but I don’t think that’s a very mainstream activity as of yet,” Bronikowski said. “Certainly there’s a lot of opportunity through broadband providers, who are starting to bundle together SVODs just like ours.”