FilmStruck, the film streaming service from Turner Classic Movies that housed classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood as well as the Criterion Collection’s extensive library, will end on Nov. 29, according to an announcement on the site.
“We would like to thank our many fans and loyal customers who supported us. Filmstruck was truly a labor of love, and in a world with an abundance of entertainment options — THANK YOU for choosing us,” it reads.
The move is part of a massive shift in strategy from the newly formed WarnerMedia, which folded Time Warner Inc. into an AT&T subsidiary this past June after the conglomerate’s massive antitrust win. WarnerMedia has been transparent about plans to consolidate and organize its major properties — which include Warner Bros. Pictures films (the Harry Potter franchise, DC Entertainment), Warner TV (Friends, ER, the CW slate) and the current offerings from HBO — and, earlier this month, announced that it would debut its own, unnamed streaming service in late 2019.
“We’re incredibly proud of the creativity and innovations produced by the talented and dedicated teams who worked on FilmStruck over the past two years,” Turner and Warner Bros. Digital Networks said in a joint statement provided to Polygon. “While FilmStruck has a very loyal fanbase, it remains largely a niche service. We plan to take key learnings from FilmStruck to help shape future business decisions in the direct-to-consumer space and redirect this investment back into our collective portfolios.”
FilmStruck was an immediate question mark for WarnerMedia’s new direction. On one hand, in a market dominated by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, a looming Disney platform and a push for original exclusive content, Turner Classic Movies’ service was the streaming world’s only home for the legacy of Hollywood and the film industry at large. FilmStruck has been a destination for Alfred Hitchcock’s library, Technicolor musicals, Jim Henson’s experimental short films and masterpieces from around the world. With one click, you could watch a Humphrey Bogart classic, the rare early work of Jane Campion or one of the many dramatic epics by acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. FilmStruck was there for cinephiles after the titans of streaming knocked brick-and-mortar video rental stores off the map.
But was it a major part of the business? Probably not.
“[Executives] felt Time Warner overall had too many initiatives,” an executive with insight into the company’s strategy told Variety. “[AT&T] have their hands full. They have no time to think about, ‘What do we do with this growth property?’”
Hearing WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey’s early thoughts on how to rev up the business of HBO — one of the major parts of the business — illuminates why FilmStruck might be a tough sell in the forward-thinking plans of a colossal media company.
“We need hours a day,” Stankey told HBO employees in a closed-door town hall right after the merger (reported on by the New York Times in July). “It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.”
The cancellation of FilmStruck arrives on the heels of two other WarnerMedia cuts: the abruptly shut-down DramaFever, a subscription VOD service specializing in Korean dramas, which was cut this month; and the digital comedy platform Super Deluxe, whose plug was pulled just last week. It’s unclear how the strategic restructuring could affect other WarnerMedia platforms, including Turner Broadcasting, which operates Cartoon Network’s Boomerang streaming service, and Otter Media, which owns Crunchyroll, VRV and Rooster Teeth.
With a new streaming platform on the horizon, there’s hope that the libraries of the Criterion Collection, Warner Archives, Icarus Films, Janus Films, Oscilloscope Laboratories, Shout! Factory, MGM and many, many more could find a home in a post-FilmStruck world. But if they don’t, what then?