Ad-supported video service Tubi has nabbed an executive from a key competitor: Tubi has hired Crackle’s SVP of programming and marketing Adam Lewinson as its new chief content officer, tasked with growing Tubi’s catalog and leading Tubi’s soon-to-be-opened Los Angeles office.
Lewinson had joined Crackle two years ago, and was among other things the service’s programming executive on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Before that, he had been FX Networks’ SVP of programming and production for close to 7 years. Previous career stints included 4 years at Lifetime, as well as jobs at Disney and Sony Pictures.
“I’m a guy who absolutely loves the AVOD business,” Lewinson told Variety, using the industry term for advertising-supported online video services. “Television should be free.”
Lewinson’s love affair with free online video began at Crackle, where he also first got to know Tubi. “We started to see Tubi come up fast in the rear-view mirror,” he said. “They have really taken the time to build superior technology.”
Tubi, which previously incorporated as Adrise, launched its ad-supported video service in 2014. In its early days, the company relied heavily on B-movie fare; over time, it improved its catalog and struck a number of key catalog deals with major studios and networks including MGM, Lionsgate, Paramount and Starz.
These days, Tubi boasts a catalog of over 7,500 titles from more than 200 partners. Lewinson intends to grow that number — but there’s one thing he doesn’t want to do to anymore at his new job: produce originals. “It is very expensive, you have to have a healthy appetite for risk,” he said.
“The cost of producing good originals has gone up,” added Tubi founder and CEO Farhad Massoudi. As Netflix and other buyers with deep pockets bid for marquee shows and films alike, advertising-supported services would have to settle for scraps, he suggested. “You end up producing lousy shows.”
Tubi instead wants to strike deals for premium catalog titles, even if those aren’t on an exclusive basis, and spend more money on improving its product, both for consumers and content partners. “We are the only company that has its own analytics and advertising platform,” Massoudi said.
Tubi now wants to use those tech chops to establish itself as a kind of free alternative to Netflix, and cater to users who are okay with ads if it allows them to save a few bucks. There are a lot of those out there, argued Lewinson. “There are still millions of viewers watching primetime TV live, and watching commercials,” he said. “Tubi still has room to grow.”