Warner Bros Home Entertainment Buys Flixster And Rotten Tomatoes

Now a movie studio owns the most popular review aggregation website. Is that strange? It might be strange.

A press release went out this morning announcing that Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group (which "brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment's home video, digital distribution, interactive entertainment, technical operations and anti-piracy businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios") has purchased the movie-ranking website Flixster and, consequently, Rotten Tomatoes. (Which was bought by Flixster in January 2010.)

The move is part of a bid on WB's part to engage digital distribution platforms. The company has already offered app editions of movies like The Dark Knight, and has begun distributing films directly through Facebook. WBHEG insists that Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes will continue to operate independently — in other words, we shouldn't see much difference in the operation of either site, and ideally RT's review presentation won't be compromised. The press release is after the break.

Given that the release barely addresses Rotten Tomatoes, it's a bit like "oops, we accidentally bought a movie review site!" And, realistically, that is probably true. The broad Flixster platform is what WB wants. The question will be how heavily WB markets movies through Flixster. There's language in the release below that suggests WB wants to push Flixster into the iTunes space, and even beyond, using cloud distribution to allow people to have all their content accessible from different devices at all times.

Here's the press release:

BURBANK, Calif., May 4, 2011 – Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group today announced an agreement to acquire Flixster, a highly popular movie discovery application company with over 25 million worldwide users per month. The acquisition also includes Rotten Tomatoes, a top website devoted to film reviews, information and news. Under the terms of the deal, Flixster will continue to operate independently and will expand its services beyond movie discovery to enable digital content ownership and delivery across any connected digital device.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group will utilize the powerful Flixster brand and technical expertise to launch a number of initiatives designed to grow digital content ownership, including the recently announced consumer application "Digital Everywhere." This studio-agnostic application will be the ultimate destination for consumers to organize and access their entire digital library from anywhere on the device of their choice, as well as to share recommendations and discover new content. The Flixster acquisition and "Digital Everywhere," combined with the Studio's support of the UltraViolet format are all part of an overall strategy to give consumers even more freedom, utility and value for their digital purchases.

"Driving the growth of digital ownership is a central, strategic focus for Warner Bros.," said Kevin Tsujihara, President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group and Office of the President, Warner Bros. Entertainment. "The acquisition of Flixster will allow us to advance that strategy and promote initiatives that will help grow digital ownership."

Flixster is currently the number one movie discovery application on mobile platforms with over 35 million downloads to date, including Android, Blackberry and iPad, and ranks among the most downloaded of all iPhone apps.  Rotten Tomatoes is one of the most trusted and influential brands in movie reviews with over 12 million unique visitors per month. Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes will remain fully independent. The Flixster team will stay in San Francisco and the Rotten Tomatoes team will continue to work autonomously in Los Angeles.

"We're thrilled that Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group shares our vision for how 'anytime, anywhere' digital entertainment can become an amazing user experience," said Joe Greenstein, co-founder and CEO of Flixster. "We're excited that Warner was willing to make this kind of commitment to a leading independent consumer platform. We look forward to working with Warner as well as each of the other studios to innovate and build products that users will love."

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group has been the consistent change leader in the home entertainment arena. It is a founding member of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), which is launching UltraViolet™ this year. UltraViolet will provide cloud-based storage and give consumers the ability to watch digital entertainment across multiple platforms such as connected TVs, PCs, game consoles and smartphones. And as the market leader in video-on-demand and electronic sell-through, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group recently became the first studio to distribute films directly to consumers via apps on Apple's iOS platform and Facebook.