Can the newest streaming service on the block find its place?
At some point in your life, you’ve likely been faced with a question that has no solid answer. Some people may take such a puzzle to a trusted confidant, a friendly pastor, or the esteemed annals of Yahoo! Answers. But will they have the expertise needed to solve your most pressing film predicaments?
Think of Dear FSR as an impartial arbiter for all your film concerns. Boyfriend texting while you’re trying to show him your most precious Ozu? What’s the best way to confront the guy who snuck that pungent curry into your cramped theater? This is an advice column for film fans, by a film fan.
I know FilmStruck finally launched and is taking away the Criterion collection from Hulu, but like…what IS it? Is it worth it and will it last in competition with Netflix? I don’t want to spend my money on something that won’t last or overlaps what I’m already paying for.
Streaming Skeptic Cinephile
Dear Streaming Skeptic,
Yes, the news is true: FilmStruck, the new joint venture between the TV channel Turner Classic Movies and the niche distributor Criterion Collection, launched successfully after a two-week delay. It’ll also, as you pointed out, be taking The Criterion Collection away from Hulu Plus, which has been its exclusive online home for the past five years. All of those films will be leaving Hulu on November 11, leaving you a precious few days to binge on great cinema before grappling with the decision to switch or add.
This decision should come from a number of factors.
First, technological convenience.
You can access FilmStruck on iOS, Android, the web, Amazon Fire TV, and – later this month – Apple TV. The company also promises Chromecast, Roku, and current-gen video game console (PlayStation 4 and XboxOne) support in the near future. I like to watch Netflix on either my laptop (for that quick and dirty TV show experience) or my XboxOne (hooked up to my TV for movies), so FilmStruck isn’t in the cards for me until it’s compatible with my streaming device.
Next, you’ll want to look at your viewing habits.
Are you a hardcore foreign fanatic? A burgeoning academic?
Clearly, FilmStruck isn’t targeting your typical Netflix viewer, but that’s some necessary differentiation sorely missing in the streaming industry. Netflix competitors are taking chunks from the market share, but not because of niche targeting. It all depends on the content available. FilmStruck’s new paradigm is focusing on a particular type of content that specifically weeds out those looking for a casual blockbuster or a midbrow TV drama to play as they fall asleep.
This plays into FilmStruck’s brand as a streaming platform for a specific community. You see it in their Twitter (run by TCM gurus Noralil Ryan Fores and Marya E. Gates) as they list, hashtag, and post various screenshots and film recommendations for their discerning audience.
Building community, through events, conversation, and content, makes FilmStruck a different kind of service. They’re not ubiquitous like Netflix – they don’t want to be. And can you imagine anyone playing along in a social media conversation with Hulu?
They have a voice, TCM’s academia groomed for the internet age, and that makes all the difference. It’s not going to be a faceless provider like Netflix or Hulu (or hell, cable); it’s supplementary.
It’s for hobbyists and film buffs, obsessives of varying degrees.
That Criterion edge adds a lot to FilmStruck’s case, especially for this demographic. That’s a ~1,500-film catalog of art-house classics that sites like Fandor, Mubi, or SundanceNow simply won’t have. The tiered pricing reflects that alluring partnership: full access to the Criterion Channel within FilmStruck costs $10.99 a month, opposed to the $6.99 partial Criterion content. Around half the general FilmStruck roster of about 500 titles are going to be Criterions available to the base-level subscribers, though the full catalog will cost the extra few dollars.
It’s also got the complete package of extras that come with most Criterion versions of movies. I’m talking behind-the-scenes, short films, commentaries. The real gritty meat for the serious trivia nerd or detail-sniffing sleuth.
So no, this isn’t really going to compete with Netflix – nor is it designed to. This is a new streaming experience that could be seen as the bridge between Netflix and a film school’s library. Whether the product’s offerings and its community is worth adding to your life is a question of what role film plays in it. For now, I’m still waiting and seeing. But when that Xbox app drops, I predict my bank account suddenly becomes mysteriously emptier.
Happy Noirvember (a term made by the TCM people running FilmStruck’s community),
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Related Topics: Netflix