|A New Service Seeks to Streamline Your Streaming|
Struum aims to give customers à-la-carte access to content from hundreds of lesser-known platforms
By Lillian Rizzo
Wall Street Journal
Jan. 7, 2021 8:00 am ET
As the streaming landscape keeps getting more crowded, a new entrant is looking to help declutter it.
Struum, a streaming service co-founded by former Discovery Inc. and Walt Disney Co. executives, won’t offer its own slate of original programming when it launches this spring. Instead, it will aim to give customers à-la-carte access to all content from hundreds of niche streaming services, offering users a way to stream individual shows and movies from various platforms without having to subscribe to each plan separately.
Co-founder Paul Pastor said Struum would give more visibility to lesser-known services, which he said have “fantastic content” but have trouble “being part of someone’s daily habit,” because there is only so much money households will spend on streaming services every month.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for major streaming services, including Netflix Inc., Disney’s Hulu and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video, whose subscriber base soared last year in the midst of growing demand for content from shut-in customers. Some 95% of U.S. households subscribe to at least one of these three services, according to Parks Associates, a research firm.
Former Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner, whose Tornante Co. is Struum’s main financial backer, told The Wall Street Journal that the decision to invest was a no-brainer.
“When I heard about this idea of an aggregation platform that would pick up smaller streaming services that don’t have brand awareness particularly like Netflix does have, I thought this was a great idea,” he said.
Struum declined to name any of the services whose content would be available on its platform at launch, but said it has already struck deals with nearly three dozen services—accounting for more than 20,000 TV series, movies and shorts.
Subscribers will get monthly credits that can be used toward watching shows and movies, the company said. Its co-founders—who also include Lauren DeVillier, formerly of Discovery, and Eugene Liew and Thomas Wadsworth, formerly of Disney—said there would be multiple packages to choose from. A likely one, they said, would cost subscribers $9.99 a month for 100 credits, which should allow them to watch about one program a day.
Struum co-founders Thomas Wadsworth, Paul Pastor, Lauren DeVillier and Eugene Liew.PHOTO: MARQUETTI PHOTOGRAPHY
The co-founders said Struum would sort out the economics—for example, how many credits should a hit show or movie be worth compared with more run-of-the-mill programming—on a case-by-case basis with each streaming partner, depending on demand. The company will share subscription revenue with the streaming services.
Ms. DeVillier said the idea behind Struum materialized while she was consulting on the launch of Disney+ in 2019 alongside Mr. Liew. The two often discussed how niche services were underserved and ways to change that. A user of the workout-class subscription service ClassPass—which lets customers attend specific classes at different gyms without being members—Ms. DeVillier thought of applying that business model to the streaming market.
Major industry players are looking to make all streaming content available on a single platform, including Apple Inc.’s TV app and Amazon Channels. But opting to watch a rival show from one of these platforms will prompt users to subscribe to the entire service, unlike the à-la-carte option that Struum is championing. Struum said its users would also be able to subscribe to streaming services directly from its platform, in which case it would get a cut of the subscription revenue.
Nancy Tellem, executive chairwoman of the video-technology company Eko and a former president of CBS Entertainment, said she first learned of the idea behind Struum from Mr. Pastor last year—when she was interviewing him for a job at Eko—and told him to go for it rather than take the job at Eko. A few months later, when he told her Struum was under way, she signed on as an adviser and investor.
Ms. Tellem said that as the growing field of high-profile streaming services competes for customers, it is getting harder for smaller streamers to successfully market their platforms and widen their audience.
“The big guys have the money and all they need to fight with one another, but there’s still a lot of content producers out there in need of that support because their content is good if not better than what the bigger companies have,” she said. “I like that Struum is in the position to support the little guys.”
Write to Lillian Rizzo at Lillian.Rizzo@wsj.com