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Next TV Summit: Warner’s Hunegs Says OTT “Is Best Thing to Happen to TV”

In a wide-ranging conversation at the close of the Next TV Summit in L.A., Craig Hunegs of president, business and strategy, Warner Bros. Television Group highlighted the massive changes that are reshaping the TV industry and argued that those changes were actually making their TV production even more valuable.

Hunegs noted that this year’s upfront saw the studio emerge once again as the largest producer of TV production with 68 series, selling new series to all the major networks and many major cable outlets. But he also said that 2015 had already produced more changes than he had ever seen in his career.

“There has never been more change and it has never happened as quickly as it has been happening this year,” he told moderator and B&C consulting editor Melissa Grego. “I’m not sure if we are even in the 1st inning of those changes,” he added. “The changes we saw this year were unimaginable a few years ago but the upcoming changes will be even more dramatic.”

Embracing that change has been a central preoccupation at the studio. Hunegs praised over-the-top (OTT) providers like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu for accelerating changes that he believed would ultimately help the TV industry thrive.

“I believe they are the best thing that has happened to TV,” he argued. “They have accelerated change…and helped TV understand what TV needs to be, especially for younger audience.”

When asked about the studio’s biggest opportunities, Hunegs stressed the importance of their ongoing TV production.

“More and more people are buying their programing and that programming is more valuable than ever before,” he said.

But he also noted that they are pushing into short form programming with the newly created Blue Ribbon Content effort and their investment with Machinima. Hunegs said that viewing short form programming by younger people today on YouTube and other outlets would continue as they grew older. Over time, Warner Bros.’ investments in short form content would help them understand that viewing and help create talent that could also be used on big budget studio fare. This focus on younger viewers continued into their digital investment strategy.

“If there is one common theme, it is our focus on reaching younger audiences,” Hunegs said. He added that they have “a path” to buying Machinima” and “that is looking more and more intriguing.” “If we play this right, what we do as a studio will look different in the future but we will …have a more multi-dimensional and profitable business.”