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Warner Launches Digital Video Division

2 Jun, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Craig Hunegs, president, Warner Bros. Digital Networks

Warner Bros. June 2 announced the formation of Warner Bros. Digital Networks, a new division with a mission to develop digital and OTT video services. The unit will be headed by Craig Hunegs, who adds the title president of Warner Bros. Digital Networks to his current duties as president of business and strategy at Warner Bros. Television Group.

In both positions, Hunegs reports directly to Kevin Tsujihara, CEO of Warner Bros. Interestingly, it was Tsujihara who spearheaded the studio’s digital efforts (Entertaindom.com) almost 15 years ago. He was instrumental in pushing transactional video-on-demand (VOD) day-and-date with new-release discs, and UltraViolet, the industry-backed cloud-based digital storage platform, among other initiatives.

“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.”

Indeed, with a mandate from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes to up digital distribution in-house throughout the company rather than licensing content primarily through Netflix, Warner Bros. Digital Networks will accelerate the company’s owned OTT activities, including DramaFever and Warner Archive Instant, an SVOD service offering classic Warner Bros. titles.

The unit will work with Turner and HBO as part of Bewkes’ strategy to reach audiences directly through currently-owned OTT services as well as those to be launched in the future.

It will also manage the company’s investments in the gamer network Machinima; in Uninterrupted, the partnership with LeBron James and Maverick Carter; and in Ellen Digital Ventures, a partnership with Ellen DeGeneres.

Speaking on the company's recent fiscal call, Bewkes said OTT video and SVOD reflect evolving consumer habits toward consuming home entertainment. He said on-demand access underscores a “vibrant re-birth of the strength of TV networks and TV programming.”

“For us, whether it is the Turner or HBO, we have said we would like to see most of our networks — whichever exhibition window — first-run or syndication be on-demand,” Bewkes said. “We’re going to try and be available in all packages consumers are interested in.”

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