Marking another major studio move into the digital entertainment space, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group has acquired movie discovery and recommendation site Flixster, which owns film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Warners insists--repeatedly, given that a studio is owning a review site-- that the company will continue to operate independently, and will serve as a "consumer-facing platform for Warner Bros. initiatives to drive digital content ownership."
OK, what does that mean? This is really about declining DVD sales, and content curation, pushing consumers toward titles. And Warners is one of the more forward-thinking studios in this arena, given their successful Warner Archives, which has used consumer-interest to drive making long-tail classic titles available. Why not use the Flixster mobile and Facebook consumer interface to push eyeballs toward user-generated movie recommendations as well as critics' choices?
This is about the post-DVD digital universe--and the continuing push by the studios toward finally crunching ancillary windows and giving consumers what they want, when and where they want. Which in turn is threatening exhibitors. Warners is one of four studios embracing a new DirectTV Premium VOD initiative that makes movies available within 60 days of their release.
Founded in 2006 by CEO Joe Greenstein, Flixster plans to expand its services beyond movie discovery to push the delivery of digital content on digital devices like iPads and smart phones. Warners will use Flixster's brand and technical know-how to launch initiatives designed to grow digital content ownership:
including the recently announced consumer application “Digital Everywhere.” This studio-agnostic application will be the ultimate destination for consumers to organize and access their entire digital library from anywhere on the device of their choice, as well as to share recommendations and discover new content. The Flixster acquisition and “Digital Everywhere,” combined with the Studio’s support of the UltraViolet format are all part of an overall strategy to give consumers even more freedom, utility and value for their digital purchases.
Kevin Tsujihara, president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, who recently was promoted to Office of the President, Warner Bros. Entertainment, has long been one of the more sophisticated online strategists. Warners is a founding member of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), which launches cloud-based storage and multiple platform digital manager UltraViolet™ this year. Also aggressively pursuing video-on-demand and electronic sell-through, Warner Bros. was the first studio to sell films directly to consumers via apps on Apple’s iOS platform and Facebook.
“Driving the growth of digital ownership is a central, strategic focus for Warner Bros. The acquisition of Flixster will allow us to advance that strategy and promote initiatives that will help grow digital ownership.”
Ranked first among "movie discovery applications on mobile platforms," San Francisco-based Flixster claims over 35 million downloads to date (including Android, Blackberry and iPad), among the most downloaded of all iPhone apps. Rotten Tomatoes and Flixster share a database of over 250,000 movies; 2.3 billion user reviews; 500,000 critic reviews; and over 35,000 trailers and videos. With its "fresh" and "rotten" designations, L.A.-based Rotten Tomatoes draws over 12 million unique visitors per month.