SVOD Who’s Who: Topic wants “passionate points of view”

Here, Realscreen presents the first in a series of profiles exploring various SVOD platforms in depth — their decision-makers, what they want and how to work with them. Yet another new ...
November 26, 2019

Here, Realscreen presents the first in a series of profiles exploring various SVOD platforms in depth — their decision-makers, what they want and how to work with them.

Yet another new player has entered the increasingly crowded subscription video on demand (SVOD) space. But this one has already carved out a reputation, and an audience, for its offering via an earlier incarnation.

New York-based, First Look Media-owned Topic launched Nov. 21 in the U.S. and Canada, replacing the original site, which functioned as an online magazine incorporating video, photography, long-form journalism and podcasts, founded by First Look Media in 2017.

Thus, it’s not a complete 180 into digital video for the brand, as the nascent streamer already has an original content library to draw from. “Anna Holmes, who was the editorial director of Topic, worked to really build an extensive library of short-form doc series and some fiction,” Topic general manager Ryan Chanatry (pictured left) tells Realscreen.

Chanatry, who came to First Look Media following a stint as Netflix’s director of global marketing insights, describes Topic’s offering as something distinct from the Netflixes and Disneys vying for the top spot in the SVOD space. “We’re not going for a volume play,” he says, but rather, the aim is to develop a small stable of outstanding projects with human stories at their core. In short, Topic is “looking for projects that are provocative, and we mean that in the sense that they will create conversation,” he explains. “They will give you something to talk about with your friends, to drive social currency, and that really comes from creators that have very passionate points of view.”

Topic is looking for content in myriad ways, including licensing work from networks and distributors, to commissioning originals, to finding new titles at festivals and markets.

Former Viceland EP Gena Konstantinakos (right) joined Topic in June as VP of development and video programming. She’s overseeing originals and says she is looking for “auteur-driven, elevated and distinctive works, that in every case are not just emotionally compelling and grippingly entertaining, but the creator has something that they’re passionate about saying.” She hopes to hear from anyone who might fit that description and wants to produce content with a distinct, informative and entertaining voice.

And the company is leaning into the freedom that comes with a platform divorced from broadcast schedules and content blocks. “One of the things we’re really excited about with the opportunity for this service is we’re genre-agnostic and length-agnostic.” says Konstantinakos.

Topic has already lined up some unscripted originals, including Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, in which the best-selling author and television host sits down with other creatives to discuss their process, and has also acquired a slate of titles from Fremantle. Acquired docs in the Topic library currently include Zhao Liang’s Behemoth, Kurt Kuenne’s Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, and Shut Up and Play the Hits, a concert doc featuring LCD Soundsystem and directed by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern.

This story first appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Realscreen Magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.