Acorn TV now financing original series, SVOD company executive says

Acorn TV executive Titus Bicknell (center) appears on a Streaming Media West panel discussion, moderated by Daniel Webster, VP of Sales and Customer Success, for Kaltura Strategic Solutions. Felix Gomez, VP of western region for YuMe, appears to his right; Adam Diep, VP of client solutions for OWNZONES Media Network, is on his left.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.—Marking a key point in the evolution of its niche SVOD platform, Acorn TV, RLJ Entertainment is now self-financing some of its original series. 

Speaking at the Streaming Media West conference, Titus Bicknell, chief digital office and executive VP of operations for RLJ, said that his company has taken on production of four shows cancelled by U.K. broadcasters, but which have found audiences in the U.S. on the Acorn on-demand platform. 

Acorn TV reported 430,000 subscribers at the end of 2016—a platform now large enough, Bicknell said, to “cover a large enough portion of the commissioning budget that we can step up and take over the show.

It’s notable that a niche subscription video on demand operator like RLJ can finance its own originals. The major SVOD operators, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, are widely believed to be among the few with the heft to underwrite hefty series production costs. 

“We’re not just an SVOD provider,” Bicknell added. “We’re still distributor that can debt-finance the production. We have global TV rights and we can sell it to 15 countries. We also have DVD and Blu-ray rights, and we can still make money out of a third-party SVOD window.”

When FierceCable asked which Acorn series he was describing, Bicknell advised fans of the Acorn service, which focuses on British murder mysteries and other U.K. shows, to do their detective work. 

Speaking more broadly on the Acorn TV platform, Bicknell said curating a limited content library keeps acquisition/production costs for RLJ in control. It also delivers a better user experience, curating the vast and often confusing content jungle found on larger SVOD services.

On platforms like Netflix, he contended, “People don’t want as much choice as they have."

"If you have meaningful content, and you know your target demo, chances are you can find them and you can make money,” Bicknell added.