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Warner Bros details strategic content plans

MUMBAI: Warner Bros chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara has outlined an aggressive content strategy for the studio that would increase profits while “doubling down on outstanding content”.

“The demand for high quality video content is growing fast—in the United States and around the world—as new technologies have created new platforms and millions of new connected consumers. The opportunity is huge. And no studio is better positioned to take advantage of it than Warner Bros,” he said while addressing a Time Warner investors meeting.

As part of his presentation, Tsujihara announced a bold expansion of the industry’s broadest theatrical slate, built around the largest, most important global franchises.

Warner Bros Pictures will release three Lego-branded films over the next four years, building upon the enormous success of this year’s “The Lego Movie” ($468 million worldwide box office), starting with ‘Ninjago’ in 2016, directed by Charlie Bean. ‘Batman’ will take a star turn in “The Lego Batman Movie” in 2017, directed by Chris McKay, while the sequel, “The Lego Movie 2,” will debut in 2018.

The studio will release three pictures, in 2016, 2018 and 2020, based on best-selling author JK Rowling’s original story and screenwriting debut, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.’ Set in an extension of her familiar wizarding world, featuring magical creatures and characters inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbook and its fictitious author, Newt Scamander, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ will be directed by David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter movies.

In a massive expansion of the studio’s DC Entertainment-branded content, Warner Bros Pictures and New Line Cinema will release a slate of at least 10 movies—as well as standalone Batman and Superman films—from 2016 through 2020 that expands this universe of characters:

  • ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, directed by Zack Snyder (2016)
  • ‘Suicide Squad’, directed by David Ayer (2016)
  • ‘Wonder Woman’, starring Gal Gadot (2017)
  • ‘Justice League Part One’, directed by Zack Snyder, with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams reprising their roles (2017)
  • ‘The Flash’, starring Ezra Miller (2018)
  • ‘Aquaman’, starring Jason Momoa (2018)
  • ‘Shazam’ (2019)
  • ‘Justice League Part Two’, directed by Zack Snyder (2019)
  • ‘Cyborg’, starring Ray Fisher (2020)
  • ‘Green Lantern’ (2020)

On the television front, Warner Bros Television Group provides 32 shows to five broadcast networks and an overall roster of more than 60 shows among network, cable, first-run syndication and animation. WBTVG will grow across multiple fronts, including cable, premium platform and kids programming, as well as further its precedent-setting activities in SVOD and international television production and format sales.

The studio’s programmes include ‘The Big Bang Theory’, ‘The Voice’, ‘Arrow’, ‘The Flash’ and ‘Gotham’.

For Turner, Warner Horizon Television’s ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ and Warner Bros Television’s ‘Major Crimes’ are two of the top three scripted series on all of basic cable for 2014 and the number one and number two shows, respectively, on TNT. The studio has a number of future projects set up at TNT, including a pilot production order for an untitled drama set in the unpredictable world of the Florida cocaine trade in the 1970s, from Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay and Michelle Ashford, and is in development on ‘Titans’, from Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman and Marc Haimes, based on DC Comics characters.

‘The Leftovers’, WBTV’s first series for HBO, debuted this summer and has already been picked up for a second season. WBTV has also produced the pilot ‘Westworld’, from executive producers JJ Abrams, Jonathan Nolan, Jerry Weintraub and Lisa Joy, and starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Evan Rachel Wood, and has a number of other projects in development at the company.

Warner Bros Animation is producing new series based on the studio’s brands, such as the upcoming ‘Be Cool Scooby-Doo!’ and ‘The Tom and Jerry Show’.

For the first time ever, Warner Bros Worldwide Television Distribution has licensed the exclusive subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) rights to one of television’s most successful series ever, WBTV’s ‘Friends’, to Netflix in the US and Canada. Starting 1 January 2015, Netflix members will have access to the entire 236-episode run of the series, which is still a linear hit on cable (Nick at Nite and TBS) and in broadcast syndication.

Worldwide Television Distribution has also sold the off-network SVOD rights to Warner Bros Television series ‘Person of Interest’ to Netflix in the US. The first three seasons of the series, which currently airs on CBS, will be made available to subscribers in fall 2015. At the same time, the series premieres off-network on WGN America.

These two deals are just the latest examples of how the studio’s hit series continue to serve as annuities for decades beyond their initial broadcast. Further increasing the value of Warner Bros library, since 1999, WBTVG has developed and produced 20 series that have reached the 100-episode milestone or will do so during the 2014–15 season.

“At Warner Bros, we are united to not only continue to create the world’s greatest entertainment content, but to over-deliver on our financial targets. I’ve been with the company for over 20 years and I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt more confident about our future. We’re committed to maintaining and enhancing the great legacy of Warner Bros, the world’s most iconic and profitable studio,” added Tsujihara.