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Warner Bros. Discovery CEO: Free Streaming Service in the Works, Possibly for Classic Movies

Ben Bowman

As Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav continues tinkering with the streaming landscape, a FAST service is in the works. Zaslav confirmed this in the company’s Q2 earnings call today.

One possible option could offer the company’s classic film library for free. According to Reuters, one proposed service would open the Warner Bros. vault for free streaming of landmark movies like “Casablanca,” “The Maltese Falcon,” and “Citizen Kane.” Company leaders say that any FAST service will feature content that is “totally different” from the flagship streaming service.

(Slide from Warner Bros. Discovery Q2 Earnings Presentation)

Free ad-supported services have become cash cows for their parent companies. Pluto TV brings in nearly 70 million monthly active users for its parent, Paramount Global. Fox leaders have likened their Tubi platform to “TV on steroids,” with 51 million monthly active users. The business model is solid. Dust off some old content that can’t sell in the syndication market, partner it with cheap movies and shows from other production companies, and offer it up to anyone willing to sit through commercials.

FAST and AVOD services also make sense for audiences. While users may pay for prestige TV and buzzy new shows on SVOD platforms, these free services pack a powerful punch to round out an entertainment library. Free ad-supported viewership is up nearly 50% over the past two years. Right now, you can watch “Jaws,” “Inception,” “The Sixth Sense,” and “Groundhog Day” on Tubi. Freevee has “Deadpool,” “Office Space,” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” Pluto TV offers up “Beverly Hills Cop,” “The Birdcage,” and “Snowpiercer.” While these great films do have ads, they’re also not edited for content, which makes it a superior experience to catching the same movie on a channel like TNT.

One of the great reasons to subscribe to HBO Max is because of the rich history of the Warner Bros. library. Users have access to one-of-a-kind masterpieces from the past 100 years. Just take a look at these titles:

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Casablanca
  • Citizen Kane
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Gone With the Wind
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • The Great Dictator
  • City Lights
  • Rashomon
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • Safety Last
  • King Kong
  • Stagecoach

If Warner Bros. Discovery were willing to offer these films up for free, anyone could get a masterclass in the golden age of cinema without paying a penny. Granted, it would be weird to see Scarlett O’Hara declare she’ll “never go hungry again,” followed by an ad for the Wendy’s Baconator, but a free movie is a free movie.

While it’s unclear if Warner Bros. Discovery will launch a FAST service and what content may be included, this would be a lucrative option. A standalone library of classic films may not draw as many eyes as a general entertainment offering, so it remains to be seen if this is the path the company takes.

HBO Max Classics

  • Gone with the Wind

    December 15, 1939

    The spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner is forced to use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty, following Maj. Gen. William Sherman’s destructive “March to the Sea,” during the American Civil War.

  • Singin' in the Rain

    April 9, 1952

    In 1927 Hollywood, a silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.

    If you have never seen this musical classic, be aware that there is so much more than singing and dancing. It’s a truly funny takedown of Hollywood, and it still holds up almost 70 years later! Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor make this film a phenomenon.

  • Citizen Kane

    April 17, 1941

    Newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) is taken from his mother as a boy and made the ward of a rich industrialist. As a result, every well-meaning, tyrannical or self-destructive move he makes for the rest of his life appears in some way to be a reaction to that deeply wounding event.

    “Citizen Kane” was ranked the best film of all time in the American Film Institute's “100 Years…100 Movies” list, and it defended that title when the list was reconsidered 10 years later.

  • The Wizard of Oz

    August 15, 1939

    Young Dorothy finds herself in a magical world where she makes friends with a lion, a scarecrow and a tin man as they make their way along the yellow brick road to talk with the Wizard and ask for the things they miss most in their lives. The Wicked Witch of the West is the only thing that could stop them.

  • Casablanca

    November 26, 1942

    In Casablanca, Morocco in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

    If you’ve never seen it, now is the time! It’s one of the best scripts ever, filled with quotable lines, fantastic supporting performances, and one of the most famous endings in movie history.

  • The Philadelphia Story

    December 5, 1940

    When a rich woman’s ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself.

  • A Streetcar Named Desire

    September 18, 1951

    Disturbed Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister in New Orleans and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law while her reality crumbles around her.

  • The Maltese Falcon

    October 18, 1941

    A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a beautiful liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

  • The Great Dictator

    October 15, 1940

    Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel’s regime.

  • City Lights

    February 1, 1931

    In this sound-era silent film, a tramp falls in love with a beautiful blind flower seller.

  • Rashomon

    August 26, 1950

    Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, “Rashomon” is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife.

  • King Kong

    March 15, 1933

    Adventurous filmmaker, Carl Denham, sets out to produce a motion picture unlike anything the world has seen before. Alongside his leading lady Ann Darrow and his first mate Jack Driscoll, they arrive on an island and discover a legendary creature said to be neither beast nor man. Denham captures the monster to displayed on Broadway as Kong, the eighth wonder of the world.

  • Bicycle Thieves

    November 24, 1948

    A working man’s livelihood is threatened when someone steals his bicycle.

  • Safety Last!

    April 1, 1923

    When a store clerk organizes a contest to climb the outside of a tall building, circumstances force him to make the perilous climb himself.

  • Stagecoach

    March 3, 1939

    A group of people traveling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo, and learn something about each other in the process.

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