Streaming video was supposed to be the great equalizer.
With a century’s worth of movies from all genres available on-demand – without the programing or advertising constraints of a linear TV channel – fans of obscurities old and new would finally be on a level playing field with the mainstream masses.
Sadly, that’s not how things turned out, as subscription video on demand services like Netflix have shifted focus to high profile originals and shed niche and library content at an alarming pace.
But now there’s a new option for viewers who prefer Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (1977) to Fuller House.
Turner announced today that it will launch FilmStruck, the company’s first domestic subscription streaming service,
on October 19 in November. Developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, FilmStruck will include access to the “the largest streaming library of contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films.”
Update 10/18/16 – Filmstruck announced today that the launch has been “delayed until November as we work to complete a seamless and easy registration process for subscribers.” No specific date was provided.
Update 11/1/16 – Filmstruck launched today and is currently available on desktop, Android, and Amazon Fire TV, with iOS support expected “later today.”
For $6.99 per month, FilmStruck will include a curated library of hard to find and critically acclaimed films refreshed and updated weekly. And FilmStruck subscribers will be able to add the newly created Criterion Channel for an additional $4 monthly, with exclusive access to more than 1,000 titles available from the Criterion Collection and a wealth of special features – some created specifically for the service. A $99 annual pricing option will also be offered with a savings of $30 annually, and FilmStruck will offer a free two-week trial. (Criterion titles have been available on Hulu since 2011. They’ll be leaving November 11 and exclusive to FilmStruck thereafter.)
Update 10/14/16 – The Wall Street Journal reports that FilmStruck will offer “500 films at a time” and that the Criterion Channel “will house 1,200 movies.”
At launch, FilmStruck will be available to watch on TV via the Amazon Fire TV streaming player as well as on the web and iOS & Android Devices (like iPads and other tablets). Turner said that the service will be added to the fourth generation Apple TV in November, with devices like Chromecast and Roku to be added “in the coming months.”
While FilmStruck is not the standalone streaming version of Turner Classic Movies many loyal viewers have wished for, it is programmed by the masterminds behind the network and the annual TCM Classic Film Festival. That team is led by Charles Tabesh, senior V.P. of programming and production for TCM and the principal architect of the channel for more than two decades.
“Charlie will lead the programming of the FilmStruck service and Criterion will lead the programming of their special experience inside FilmStruck,” Jennifer Dorian, general manager of TCM and FilmStruck, told me at the TCM Film Fest earlier this year. “It’s a testament to the great brand they’ve built over the decades that our management instantly got that only the TCM programmers could really do FilmStruck justice.”
Dorian told me that the project, which had the working title of TCM Art House, is the product of “research and brainstorming” over the last few years and is designed to be “additive” to TCM’s business, not “cannibalistic.” Like TCM, FilmStruck will offer movies uncut and commercial-free and feature a roster of on-camera talent hosting programming organized with innovative themes. (A sample of three programming themes is at their website.)
“(FilmStruck) will provide context thoughtfully, like we try to do for the main channel,” Tabesh told me at TCMFF. “That same philosophy will permeate both in terms of giving people a reason for the films to be there, and to explain that reason.”
Hosts at launch will include: actor Bill Hader, a frequent face on Turner Classic Movies over the last few years; film reporter and critic Alicia Malone, a correspondent for CNN, Entertainment Tonight and others; and actor and comedian Lucky Yates. The role TCM on-air talent will play at FilmStruck (if any) is still to be determined, but Ben Mankeiwicz, a 13-year on-air veteran of the channel, was genuinely excited about the service when I spoke with him at TCMFF.
“This is a really big deal for Turner and really great, I think, for TCM that the executives at all those other Turner networks entrusted the people at TCM to do this,” Mankiewicz told me. “That’s a huge vote of confidence.”
For my previous coverage of FilmStruck, including details on content partners, click here. You can’t subscribe to FilmStruck until launch date, but you can sign up for more information on their website. And sorry Canadian viewers, at launch FilmStruck is only available in the U.S.