Warner Bros. Acquires DramaFever

Warner Bros. has bought DramaFever, a streaming-video subscription service specializing in Korean TV shows and film dramas, and is eyeing the deal as paving the way to launch new over-the-top services.

WB is acquiring DramaFever from Japan’s SoftBank Group, which bought the company in October 2014. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2016; financial terms were not disclosed.

“This is a great fit for Warner Bros.,” said Craig Hunegs, president of business and strategy for Warner Bros. Television Group. “With Warner Bros.’ resources, we will rapidly enhance and grow the DramaFever channel.”

Hunegs added that the DramaFever crew “will move quickly with our own distribution and creative teams to create and build more OTT services.”

In an interview, Hunegs said Warner Bros. TV is exploring a variety of possible OTT services. Those might include OTT services similar to DramaFever with programming licensed from other countries, or a subscription service with content from Machinima, the multichannel network focused on gaming and fan culture in which Warner Bros. owns an equity stake.

“We’ve got a deep library, we have a lot of production capability with a broad slate of television and film, and we are actively producing digital-native content,” he said. “Generally, we are intent on — across the board — getting closer to consumers in a way that features original programming and franchises.”

In the short term, the focus is growing the existing DramaFever channel, Hunegs said. The CW Network, a joint venture of Warner Bros. and CBS, has reportedly been considering launching its own subscription OTT service. As a separate entity, CW would not be involved with the over-the-top services WB plans to build with DramaFever, Hunegs said.

DramaFever co-founders Seung Bak and Suk Park will continue to oversee the company, which has about 100 employees, and report to Hunegs.

“Warner Bros. is truly the ideal home for us,” said Bak, DramaFever’s co-founder and CEO. “Combining our deep media sensibilities and experience in developing online video destinations with Warner’s vast library and production expertise will provide an unlimited number of opportunities to create the next generation of OTT services and Internet TV brands.”

DramaFever, while wholly owned by Warner Bros., will continue to operate under that consumer-facing brand and remain based in New York. Launched in 2009 with 10 Korean drama series, DramaFever now offers hundreds of series, variety shows, films and kids programs, in multiple languages, and is available in more than 20 countries globally.

Prior to its acquisition by SoftBank, DramaFever had raised $12 million from investors including AMC Networks, Bertelsmann, MK Capital, SoftBank Ventures, NALA Investments and YouTube co-founder Steve Chen.

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