Fresh off AT&T’s closure of its Time Warner Inc. acquisition, the rebranding of those assets under the WarnerMedia moniker, and the anointment of longtime AT&T exec John Stankey to run it all, the wireless giant is making big changes to its content business.
In recent weeks, a number of not-that-old digital properties have been abandoned by WarnerMedia, including cinephile-targeted SVOD platform FilmStruck and Korean content-themed subscription streaming site Drama Fever.
Meanwhile, other properties, including those housed in AT&T’s Otter Media joint venture, which the telecom recently paid $600 million to own outright, are receiving fresh water.
Case in point is VRV, a millennial-targeted streaming platform housed in the San Francisco-based bowels of Otter’s Ellation Media unit, which is also home to anime-focused SVOD platform Crunchyroll.
Like Crunchyroll, VRV’s focus is on anime, but the target is the consumer with the lighter, more diverse palette.
On Wednesday, WarnerMedia announced that VRV will now be the subscription video on demand home of the Conan O’Brien-produced TBS animated series Final Space, which voice stars Fred Armisen.
VRV will also make the the WarnerMedia cable channel Boomerang available to its nearly 2.5 million active monthly users, and it’s also bringing the Adult Swim show Mike Tyson Mysteries and the Warner Bros. Animation title Jabberjaw to the platform.
Ellation’s head of content, Eric Berman, who joined the platform five years ago from Hulu, describe’s VRV’s audience of “older millennials” as being “incredibly tech savvy and engaged on social. They’re leaders in the digital space.”
It’s exactly the kind of upwardly mobile, subscription based audience that a media company vested in linear television—and the aging audiences that come with that—might want to develop.
Berman won’t speak as to why WarnerMedia is divesting itself of platforms like FilmStruck, which was only launched two years ago. But he did say that in the post-Netflix age, it’s really hard for a companies like AT&T to launch standalone SVOD services.
VRV strategy isn’t so much about acquiring content, but rather taking the ol’ aggregator of aggregators approach. Most VRV’s 12 channels are based on existing WarnerMedia assets, like Boomerang. Some, such as the Viacom-owned Splat, the AMC Networks-operated Shudder and John Hendricks-founded CuriosityStream, belong to outside partners.
Channels can be purchased a la carte for $3-$7 apiece, but Berman said that most VRV subscribers opt for the all-in-one $10-a-month bundle.
As for availability of the platform, Berman said it “over-indexes” on gaming consoles like PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
He added that other revenue streams are currently in development for VRV—“podcasts, games, merch, and a lot other fun stuff.”
“I guess they did the math and figured that anime and other audiences had money to spend, and they’ll buy merchandise, too, and go to conventions, etc.,” said TV[R]ev analyst Alan Wolk, noting that Crunchyroll just reached the 2 million user mark, as well.
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