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Warner Bros. acquires video-on-demand service DramaFever

Warner Bros. on Tuesday announced its purchase of DramaFever, a streaming-video subscription service that offers South Korean soap operas and movies.

The studio is acquiring DramaFever from Japanese-based telecommunications firm SoftBank Group. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2016.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The DramaFever acquisition signals Warner Bros.’ determination to expand in the so-called over-the-top delivery of its own titles.

“We are really intent on getting closer to our audience,” said Craig Hunegs, president of business and strategy for Warner Bros. Television Group. “We haven’t traditionally had the capabilities in our company to build direct-to-consumer offerings, over-the-top services, subscription video on demand services … so, in looking for a team that had the experience to do that and the technology to underpin an SVOD service, there were a handful of options and we liked these guys the best.”

Hunegs added that with Warner Bros.’ resources, the hope is to grow the DramaFever channel by providing it with capital spending.

The investment comes at a time when there are more than 100 Internet video services operating in the U.S., with at least 40% launching during the past two years, according to Dallas consulting firm Parks Associates. The new TV landscape is pressuring traditional media companies to have a hand in the shifting tide.

Warner Bros. already is a major investor in gaming-centric online video company Machinima.

And Warner Bros. parent Time Warner Inc. has initiated companywide efforts to keep up with changing viewer habits.

Time Warner recently acquired online video specialist iStreamPlanet and launched subscription video-on-demand services with HBO Now in the U.S. in an effort to court cord-cutters.

“If you want to effectively reach young audiences, you have to kind of meet them where they’re watching and the way they’re watching,” Hunegs said. “There’s still enormous viewing on traditional television networks, but the audience is migrating to a degree and we want to be there.”

DramaFever co-founders Seung Bak and Suk Park will stay on to oversee the company and report to Hunegs. And DramaFever will continue to operate under that consumer-facing brand and remain based in New York.

“Warner Bros. is truly the ideal home for us,” Bak said in a statement. “Combining our deep media sensibilities and experience in developing online video destinations with Warner’s vast library and production expertise will provide an unlimited number of opportunities to create the next generation of OTT services and Internet TV brands.”

The company, which launched in 2009 with 10 Korean drama series, now offers hundreds of series, variety shows, films and children’s programs, in multiple languages, and is available in more than 20 countries.

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