Kino Lorber and First Look Media have formed a joint venture to operate their respective streaming services, MHz Choice and Topic.
The new entity will be run by Kino Lorber, which will also take a majority stake. Programming, marketing and technology will be handled by MHz Networks founder Frederick Thomas. Topic GM Ryan Chanatry and Jennifer Liang, who oversaw acquisitions for the streaming service, will consult through the transition period. Kino Lorber’s streaming services are overseen by Chief Strategy Officer Ed Carroll, the former longtime AMC Networks exec who joined the company earlier this year.
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Programming for both Topic streaming and MHz Choice will be overseen by Lance Schwulst, SVP of Content Strategy for MHz Networks. Monica Bloom, VP of Marketing for Topic, will join the JV as Chief Marketing Officer for both services.
Topic, which launched as an effort to showcase high-caliber international series and eventually focused in on the crime genre, has been the streaming home for the original versions of The Killing and The Bridge as well as Nordic series Arctic Circle. MHz Choice also specializes in international fare, including series like A French Village and Detective Montalbano.
Kino Lorber acquired MHz Choice in 2022 and soon thereafter installed Carroll and former IFC Films head Lisa Schwartz in key management roles.
“We’re excited to partner with First Look Media and build on the strong SVOD brand they have created with Topic streaming. As North American audiences embrace entertainment from around the world, we’re proud to now be the home for the two best-in-class streaming services for international series and films,” Kino Lorber CEO Richard Lorber said in the official announcement. “This is a key strategic investment for Kino Lorber that will strengthen Topic streaming and MHz Choice in their complementarity and create new synergies with our world class film business.”
Topic, an outgrowth of Topic.com, launched as a subscription service in 2019. First Look, created in 2013 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has backed journalism outfit The Intercept as well as podcasts and a film and TV studio operation whose credits include projects like Oscar-winning film Spotlight.
“Ryan and his team identified the perfect niche in ‘crime & thriller’ and built one of the most exciting streaming services available today,” First Look Media CEO Michael Bloom said. “We’re excited to partner with Kino Lorber, with its commitment to premium international programming, in this new joint venture, firmly positioning ourselves in the growing market of specialty streaming services.”
Kino Lorber, whose roots in arthouse film distribution date back to the 1970s, has a library of 4,000 titles. It puts out about 35 films a year in theaters and another 350 in home entertainment and educational markets across digital and physical media. It also operates a transactional VOD service, Kino Now.
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