Streaming services blur the lines between traditional notions of movies and TV shows. They are also changing the concept of channels, made clear by how WarnerMedia continues to evolve its entertainment channels TNT and TBS.
Both channels have been branded and rebranded to stay relevant (at worst) and become cutting edge (at best) through the years. To date, the channels’ brands have been drawn along genre lines, with TNT focused on drama and TBS owning comedy.
That is about to change.
In a small yet indicative move, WarnerMedia has decided to release the second season of action/thriller series “Snowpiercer” on TBS, alongside the channel’s comedy mainstays “The Last O.G.,” “Conan,” and “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”
The move is part of parent company AT&T’s larger effort to centralize WarnerMedia’s content and effort on the streaming model. Back in March — less than a year after acquiring then parent company Time Warner — AT&T effectively dissolved longtime umbrella organization Turner Broadcasting.
“This change will provide the company with the agility and flexibility needed to build WarnerMedia’s brands across a variety of evolving distribution models with a more coordinated approach to the company’s original programming,” the company said in a release at the time.
Mainstay properties like TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, and Turner Sports had been under the Turner umbrella. After its dissolution, AT&T separated WarnerMedia into two content divisions: WarnerMedia Entertainment and WarnerMedia News & Sports. Channels were dispersed among the divisions accordingly.
Home Box Office, Inc. — another subsidiary of AT&T that came with the Time Warner acquisition — was also notably dissolved and its major property, HBO, placed into WarnerMedia Entertainment as well.
Now, WarnerMedia is looking to further evolve its distribution models to fit the future of content by reimagining their channels.
“You’ll begin to see a more integrated approach to our whole ecosystem,” said Kevin Reilly, TBS/TNT president and Turner chief creative officer, speaking to “Variety.”
“It’s owning the virtuous circle of engagement. Part of this transformation is how we think about networks. We’re going to be more flexible in our programming strategy to go where the audience is…TBS, TNT and TruTV are stronger if we’re less bound by a single brand position or genre.”
As such, AT&T announced that it will preview its planned streaming service in the fall of 2019. HBO will be the centerpiece of that service.
Of course, AT&T’s streaming platform will compete with the likes of Disney and Apple, whose own native streaming services — Disney+ and Apple TV Plus — are farther along in development. Disney+ will launch in November of this year and Apple TV Plus has an unannounced fall release date.
In spite of the looming competition, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was optimistic about leveraging the quality of HBO’s content and breadth of the Warner Bros. library of movies in a recent interview with “The Verge.”
That optimism is certainly grounded in large part from the success of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” In an era defined by binge-watching, “Game of Thrones” remained a weekly watch event that amazingly commanded more and more viewers each season.
While many question whether that model can be replicated, AT&T is banking on it to distinguish its streaming service. Reilly hinted that the service will aim to capitalize on the sociability of a weekly episode release, à la “Game of Thrones,” and the fatigue of binge culture propagated by other the services.
With existing services Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu already satiating the market, the influx of additional subscription streaming platforms will be a strong test of how content consumption will evolve in the coming years.
For more news check out Grit Daily’s Entertainment page.