David Decker Talks WBD’s FAST Strategy


David Decker, the president of content sales at Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), showcased how FAST fits into the company’s overall approach for monetizing its extensive slate of movies and series at the FAST Festival today.

Decker’s keynote session, in which he was interviewed by World Screen’s Anna Carugati, can be viewed in its entirety here.

WBD began working in the FAST channels space at the end of last year, rolling out its own portfolio of services. “We work with the various departments inside the company because we have such a vast array of content,” Decker said. “We tried to curate content that was both great for the consumer but also would not be harmful to all of our incumbent businesses. So you’ll see a lot of Discovery content. You’ll also see some classic movies and some scripted Warner Bros. series in there.”

On catering to niche audiences in FAST, Decker noted: “It gives us a chance to allow those viewers that want to go deeper into one of our genres or categories to do that. That had previously been harder for us because, in a licensing business, you tend to be a bit more of a generalist and a little less of a specialist. So we’ve now been able to curate some of these channels and let you go much deeper if you want.”

The FAST channels have also been beneficial for finding new audiences. “We love that people find shows and movies and discover them as if they’re seeing it for the first time. It’s great when people talk about things that may have not surfaced for years and say, ’Oh, I just found this great show.’”

Thus far, WBD has not set up any single-IP services, “although we are looking at it and contemplating it,” Decker said. “The majority of the channels are non-scripted content, so more of the Discovery content and some of the non-scripted Warner Bros. content. We have a movie channel and some scripted channels that are predominantly dramas. We’re going to experiment as we move forward and learn. We know that we’re not the newest entrant; we’re not the leading entrant in the space. The platforms are very experienced, so we’re looking to learn from and with them as we slowly put our content into the FAST space.”

Decker then talked about how the company uses the data learnings from its FAST services. “We always say it’s what you do with the data and who will discern it. Working closely with the platforms is important so that we have a relationship with them and we hear from them what they see is working and how they’ve looked at the data for years. You can get lost in your data without the right context.”

Carugati asked Decker how WBD determines which platforms to align with, given the competitive landscape. “Working with buyers who are partners, we figure out where the best place is for our content. And then it’s about the structure of the deal, which is tied heavily to economics, but also things like marketing and data and ingestion and curation. So a whole host of factors are important as we figure out the best show and the best movie for the best platform.”

The conversation then moved to where FAST and AVOD fit within overall distribution cycles. In the case of movies—WBD has about 7,000 in its library—there are several that Decker referred to as being “in the middle range and aren’t heavily licensed by third parties. So, we can curate those into a specific movie channel for FAST. It gives us supplemental revenue and allows those movies to be seen again by people that are either familiar with them or unfamiliar and expose those titles in a way that allows them to breathe and be relevant in the culture. We don’t think things should just sit on the shelf indefinitely; they must live and breathe out in the audience.”

WBD is primarily working on a rev-share business in FAST. “Generally, our licensing business is not for the FAST channels but would be more for AVOD and SVOD and other linear platforms. We look at what is best for the title, what’s the best place for it and the best way we can monetize it.”

FAST channels serve as a “great way to surface a lot of content to viewers,” Decker said. “It feels a lot like the old cable TV expansion. That combination and also the ease of distribution has allowed rapid growth.”

WBD plans to continue expanding its FAST footprint, with Decker noting that the company remains optimistic about this space. “You’ll see us offering more channels into more platforms. We will experiment with some single-channel IP and look at curating the content and figuring out how to surface it better so that people can discover it and then find our channels and hopefully spend more time on them.”

On refresh rates for FAST channels, Decker observed: “The general expectation or requirement is a quarterly to semiannual refresh of the content. That will vary by channel, deal and platform. We’ve baked into our deals a refresh as we go. It’s also been communicated to us that if you do that with a quicker refresh rate, you might accelerate the adoption of the channels. We’re going to again experiment on that. We also know that when people find a show they like, they like to go back to it over and over and over again. If there are fan favorites, we’re not going to mess with them. We don’t want people looking for it again if they’ve already found it. We want them to find it again and again and then find ways of monetizing it.”