Warner's Kevin Tsujihara Eyeing Premium VOD for 'Middle-of-the-Market' Theatrical Dramas9 Feb, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel
One of the reasons Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara was promoted from home entertainment to head of the studio was his digital expertise and willingness to upend the distribution status quo — notably the theatrical window.
Speaking on the Feb. 8 Time Warner fiscal call, Tsujihara was asked a status report on his efforts to enable consumers early access to theatrical titles in the home — an option the executive has previously characterized as imperative.
Tsujihara said premium VOD, which affords early in-home access (at a premium price) to movies concurrently in theatrical circulation (at a lower price), remained a work-in-progress targeting so-called “middle-of-the-market” releases.
Indeed, for every superhero actioner such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad or fantasy thriller Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there are adult dramas whose theatrical run could be enhanced financially with early in-home access. Titles include Sully, Creed, War Dogs and Me Before You, among others.
“We talk a lot about these [superhero/thriller] franchises, but the middle of the market in the theatrical business has gotten extremely tough. And we do think that having products like [premium VOD], that are giving movies to consumers who want them earlier in the home, is a big opportunity,” Tsujihara said.
He said discussions with exhibitors — heretofore adamantly opposed to curtailing the exclusive 90-day theatrical window — now involve new business models (i.e. revenue sharing] intended to grow the overall market, instead of cannibalizing distribution channels.
Tsujihara said premium VOD is high on the studio’s priority list due to its perennial slate of diverse movies.
“We think that we're making a lot of progress on that end because, ultimately, it's not really about business model per se, it's really about giving consumers what they want," he said. "Because, if we don't give it to them, they're going to go to the pirated version.”