Warner Bros. has formed Warner Bros. Digital Networks, aggregating the studio’s owned digital video and over-the-top video services and focused on expanding its reach into direct-to-consumer entertainment.
The new division will be led by Craig Hunegs (pictured above), who adds the title of president, Warner Bros. Digital Networks to his current responsibilities as president of business and strategy for Warner Bros. Television Group. In both positions, Hunegs reports to Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros. chairman and CEO.
The group encompasses DramaFever, the subscription-video service specializing in Korean TV shows and film dramas that WB acquired earlier this year from Softbank, as well as WB’s investment in Machinima; its partnership with NBA star LeBron James’ Uninterrupted for digital projects; and its interest in Ellen Digital Ventures, a partnership with talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. Also under the WBDN umbrella will be Warner Archive Instant, a subscription VOD service offering classic titles from the studio.
In addition, Warner Bros. Digital Networks will work closely with Time Warner’s Turner and HBO divisions, as part of the parent company’s overall strategy to reach audiences directly through current and future OTT services. Last year HBO rolled out the $15-per-month HBO Now service, which doesn’t require a pay-TV subscription, and Turner has set a fall launch for FilmStruck, stocked with more than 1,000 art-house and indie titles from Criterion Collection and other sources.
“In today’s on-demand world, OTT gives us a really effective means to directly provide consumers the programming they want,” Tsujihara said in a statement. “By forming Warner Bros. Digital Networks, we’ll be able to operate more nimbly as we continue to develop and deliver on our digital strategy which will complement our industry-leading distribution business.”
In an interview, Hunegs said WBDN is working on several new OTT channel projects, which will be rolling out in the next few months. “The unifying theme is getting the studio closer to our audience,” he said.
As for the CW — the network jointly owned by Warner Bros. and CBS — Hunegs said his team will also work to expand its OTT reach. “You’ll see the CW distributed more broadly and in more ways than it’s ever been,” he said. “You’ll find that in more places and on more devices.”
A parallel digital effort brewing at Warner Bros. is “Project Mix,” a digital studio working with talent to create shows and productions outside the bounds of typical Hollywood studio fare, according to sources familiar with the plans. Project Mix is focused on content creation, but it may have an OTT presence as well. That’s in addition to Blue Ribbon Content, an in-house studio WB launched in 2014 geared toward short-form video projects for digital platforms.