The focus of the streaming wars has been on major players like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Disney Plus, and HBO Max — all fighting to build massive subscriber bases.
Now comes Struum, an L.A.-based startup founded by ex-Disney, Discovery and Disney ABC TV execs who believe they can spin smaller, niche-oriented subscription-streaming services into a bundle of gold. It’s targeting a spring 2021 debut, but hasn’t announced pricing or content partners at this point.
Struum (which rhymes with “boom”) has received an unspecified amount of funding from Michael Eisner’s Tornante Co. The idea: to deliver an SVOD model akin to exercise-class service ClassPass or the now-defunct MoviePass. Struum’s founders are eyeing more than 250 mass niche and specialty streaming services in the U.S. to potentially cull from.
“Our mission is simple: to create the easiest way for people to find more of the content they love by providing value through a single subscription,” said Struum CEO Lauren DeVillier.
DeVillier, former head of product for Discovery Ventures, co-founded the company with Eugene Liew, former VP of product and technology at Disney Plus; Paul Pastor, former Discovery EVP of strategy, revenue and operations and a member of Disney/ABC’s original Hulu investment team; and Thomas Wadsworth, former lead advanced product development for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Struum says it has secured licensing deals with more than two dozen services for content spanning movies, TV shows, and short-form videos. The company will use a credit-based system they can use to stream individual titles shows and movies; for example, a $10-per-month pass might let customers watch one title per day.
In addition to Eisner’s involvement, the company has tapped entertainment and technology vets for its advisory board. Those include Nancy Tellem, former president of CBS Entertainment and Xbox Entertainment; Ben Pyne, former president of Disney/ABC Television Distribution; and Donald Hicks, Twitter’s head of global operations.
“With so much proliferation in the niche and specialty streaming landscape, there is a clear need for a resource that helps [consumers] seamlessly discover and consume content from these services,” Eisner, one-time CEO of Disney, said in a statement. He praised Struum as having “truly a first-class team that is leveraging their wide breadth of experiences and relationships to create a solution unmatched by anything else currently available that will benefit both viewers and streaming services.”
Struum’s platform is being developed in collaboration with Firstlight Media, which is also an investor, and is based on Microsoft Azure’s cloud architecture. Pastor, who serves as Struum’s chief business offer and in the same capacity for Firstlight, said the platform is designed to help streaming services optimize discoverability of their programs and services.
“Our goal is to create a best-in-class aggregation solution for consumers,” Pastor said.
Struum isn’t the first attempt to roll multiple SVOD services into a bundle. VRV, which is now part of Sony’s Funimation group after WarnerMedia’s $1.2 billion sale of Crunchyroll, launched back in 2016 and currently offers a $10/month subscription to a collection of animation and sci-fi content from services including Crunchyroll, Cartoon Hangover and Rooster Teeth.
But Struum’s ambitions are larger than that.
“As the OTT space continues to expand, there is an incredible amount of amazing video content options for TV and movie streaming fans, but it can be overwhelming and expensive for the average viewer to delve into these options outside the biggest players in the market,” said DeVillier. “With our platform, we will help viewers uncover new content and platforms, but also provide all SVOD services with the opportunity to be more easily, and frequently discovered by fans.”
Pictured above (l. to r.): Thomas Wadsworth, Paul Pastor, Lauren DeVillier, Eugene Liew