Turner Expands FilmStruck With Classic Warner Bros. Films

Expanding one of Time Warner’s direct-to-consumer businesses, Turner is adding classic movies from the Warner Bros. library to its FilmStruck streaming subscription video-on-demand service.

Effective Monday, FilmStruck subscribers get access to hundreds of movies from Hollywood’s golden age including Casablanca, Rebel Without a Cause, Singin’ In the Rain, Citizen Kane, The Music Man and A Night at the Opera, in addition to the art house, independent and cult films they had been streaming.

The price of a FilmStruck subscription remains at $6.99 for its base tier. It also offers FilmStruck and the Criterion Channel for $10.99 a month and an annual subscription covering FilmStruck and Criterion Channel for $99 a year.

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Warner Archive, a streaming service started by Warner Bros. Digital Networks, is being folded and its subscribers will be transitioned to FilmStruck.

With the additional movies, FilmStruck is launching a new feature called TCM Select, a highlighted selection of iconic films. Each film will be accompanied by an introduction from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, archival content and other bonus material.

Streaming has become a growth opportunity for many media companies. Earlier this month, CBSsaid it had 5 million subscribers between its CBS All Access and Showtime OTT offerings. And the Walt Disney Co. is launching the streaming subscription product ESPN Plus this spring and a Disney-branded streaming product next year.

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Time Warner execs noted that they are big in streaming. In addition to FilmStruck, Turner and Warner Bros. work together on the Boomerang kids’ service. Warner Bros. also has Drama Fever, offering international films, and HBO has its HBO Now OTT product. A soccer service is in the works, as well as a D.C. Comics-based product.

“We may not be beating the drum as loudly as Disney is, but I think we’re ahead of the game right now,” said Craig Hunegs, president, Warner Bros. Digital Networks and president, business and strategy, Warner Bros. Television Group.

FilmStruck was launched in 2016. Turner is not disclosing how many subscribers it has, but Hunegs said it has five times the number of subscribers of Warner Archive.

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“We like what we’re seeing,” said Coleman Breland, president of Turner Classic Movies, FilmStruck and Turner Content Experiences. “It’s high engagement, very low churn. And our renewals on annual subscriptions are wonderfully and shockingly high.”

Breland said FilmStruck heard from its subscribers that they wanted films from the golden age of Hollywood added to the service and it made sense to work with sister company Warner Bros.

"Warner Bros. had launched its Archive service back in 2013 and the technology back then wasn’t what it is now. To make Archive a success, Warner Bros. would have had to upgrade its technology, its user experience and its curation—all strengths of FilmStruck,” Hunegs said.

“There was no question that the product they have is better than what we had in Archive,” he said. “They had all the things we were lacking.”

Turner and Warner Bros. this month launched FilmStruck in the U.K. and will be rolling it out in other countries over the course of the next year. “We think this has enormous potential globally and so we’re really excited to be doing this together,” Hunegs said.

Turner and other cable programmers are learning lessons about the streaming business.

One mistake would be “to think that what made you successful in linear will automatically make you successful in direct-to consumer,” Breland said.

Though both deal in classic movies. FilmStruck for example is very different than TCM, he said. About 80% of the audience for TCM is 55 years of age and older. FilmStruck, on the other hand, is targeted at 25- to 44-year-olds.

With a subscription service, “you’re constantly in touch with what they want in terms of search and discovery and interface and feedback,” he said.

“You continually hone your business all the time, no matter what your business is, but when you’re direct to consumer daily you’re looking at what they are telling you,” he said, adding that retail and wholesale are very different businesses.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.