Max Einhorn, senior VP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, talked about the strategies that have made the company the largest independently owned operator of ad-supported streaming apps and FAST channels at the FAST Festival today.
Einhorn’s keynote conversation with World Screen’s Kristin Brzoznowski, covering curation, deal structures, the approach to acquisitions and more, can be viewed here.
Einhorn explained that FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher has long held the view that there would be strong demand for free content delivered over the internet. Via the FilmRise Streaming Network, a portfolio of apps, the company had already been working with AVOD operators, and FAST presented a logical progression.
“The real estate in the FAST lineup was very much up for grabs. It was important for us in the very beginning to seize as much of that as possible. FilmRise is licensing content vetted by our analytics, which dependably predicts what content viewers have a strong affinity for. We build channels around our brands or content verticals that are proven to outperform others.”
The extensive slate covers more than 250 channels, including single-IP services for shows like Forensic Files, Unsolved Mysteries and Heartland. The curated channels “reflect high-performing genre concentrations,” Einhorn said. “We want to make them as easy for a viewer to understand as possible,” resulting in propositions like FilmRise Action and FilmRise True Crime. Original content, such as Bloodline Detectives, is in the mix on these channels. “We also have clever marketing stunts that we originate with or coordinate with platforms based on special anniversaries or seasonal stunts.”
Einhorn weighed in on his current acquisitions remit for the FilmRise FAST slate. “I would group our needs into three categories,” he said. The first is long-running series “that have the volume to sustain their own channel, and that’s generally about 100 hours or more in the most ideal situation. We have found that these kinds of channels work more so than a lot of other sorts of curated channels on the market because the value proposition to the viewer is obvious.”
For its own genre channels, FilmRise is on the hunt for content “that has a high viewer affinity and will drive more viewership. Channels we’re looking to throw even more power behind include FilmRise Western, FilmRise Black TV, FilmRise Sci-Fi and FilmRise for Her.”
The third category is “content libraries that have a strong emphasis in a specific genre and consumer recognition,” Einhorn noted. “We’re very interested in building channels around the automotive, DIY, home and garden and reality TV verticals.”
On the international landscape, Einhorn said he’s seen gains in Canada. “We are seeing both an increase in our streams and monetization, which is the right combination of trends. We’re giving a lot of attention to Latin America and Western Europe, given the legacy media advertising scale, with dollars now migrating from traditional television to free streaming. We think the timeline for this to hit a maturation parity with the U.S. is about a three- to five-year time horizon. But the important metric is that consumption is growing. It’s just about the monetization catching up.”
Einhorn then discussed the deal structures that FilmRise utilizes in its content pacts. “Generally, we’re licensing all digital or ad-supported streaming rights, including FAST. What’s important to distinguish FilmRise from others participating in this space is that we are a full-fledged, full-service distributor with the largest footprint outside the major studios. So when we work with somebody, our partners derive value from our business across the full spectrum of monetization methods.”
The discussion then moved to the role of exclusivity in FAST. “It’s something that people always need to consider when they get into business with a distributor. It very much depends on the content. When some shows have the breadth and the viability to be their own FAST channel in and of themselves, exclusivity to us is essential. Conceptually, it makes no sense for one show to be repeated across multiple channels if it dominates the programming schedule. Our preference is that if we are handling a major series that has the breadth to be its own channel, we are the sole partner bringing the value to that licensor.”
Regarding data’s role in content decisions, Einhorn said: “We are using the analytics to help us optimize the channels so that they remain fresh and in the top percentile of the highest-performing destinations on any given platform and identify the properties with high demand and are likely to help us secure more FAST channel carriage.”
Einhorn sees great potential for originals in FAST but added: “I would caution anyone looking to make original programming solely for FAST to understand what the monetization potential is. It is not the same monetization scale as what traditional television was. The revenues that can be derived from FAST are not necessarily at parity with a lot of those chunky license fees or first-window exclusives that you may see from an SVOD service. We have done it successfully by taking a ubiquitous distribution approach. Not only are we exploiting in FAST and across our channels, but we’re also distributing this content to our apps and widely across many AVOD partners. It’s not solely hinging on FAST. FAST is one piece of the pie that makes them possible, but the cost of the productions needs to reflect the whole monetization opportunity.”
On the long-term prospects for FAST, Einhorn noted: “CPMs are going to continue to grow as more advertising dollars enter the space. This is becoming a multibillion-dollar industry. International is a really big opportunity. Many broadcasters are reluctant to allow content to have AVOD exposure because they believe it directly competes with their business, which it does. That can sometimes challenge the progress of great content coming into the free streaming space. But FilmRise has succeeded in helping partners in international territories and partners with international rights fully realize the value of what’s there. We’re seeing a lot of good consumption and growth trends, and while the revenue isn’t quite there right now, it’s going to be in a very short period of time. So we’re enthusiastic about that. Much of our continued roadmap and execution on strategy is serving the continued expansion of our global footprint.”