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FilmStruck/Criterion Channel is being shut down!


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Well this is truly a bummer.  Today I found a message in my inbox from Criterion and the FilmStruck channel that "Turner and Warner Bros. Digital Networks announced plans to shut down FilmStruck," which will stop streaming on November 29.  For the cinephiles among us this has got to be a terrible blow.  Despite all the streaming options, there is nothing quite like FilmStruck, and even the most interesting among them, such as Fandor, do not offer anything as well done as FilmStruck, which is a great mix of classic Hollywood, Art House, global cinema, the entire Criterion collection, history and scholarship all in one highly intelligent and very exciting package.  I stopped streaming anything else because FilmStruck offered so much great content. Between FilmStruck and TCM I needed nothing else.

 

I wish there were something we could do to change the management's thinking on this.  

This is more than an entertainment channel, this is a unique window onto the history of global cinema, a means of preserving the best of films in a form that continues to ensure their relevance, and a superb means of effectively combining scholarship, preservation, and sheer pleasure in filmmaking.  This channel is too important to peremptorily shut down in this manner.  
 
This is a terrible decision.  Surely the art of film—an art that has defined the modern age more than any other—deserves better than a bean-counter's assessment of its viability!  
 
Seriously Disappointed in Turner and Warner Bros.
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It turns out that this is all a part of the nefarious attempt by AT&T "to not seem like a giant monopolistic media company sucking at the teet of the American public by relying on subsidies and overpriced data plans to stay afloat," as one writer on Gizmodo put it.  In the Variety article announcing the move, they state that "The move appeared to be the latest by WarnerMedia, under AT&T’s ownership, to streamline operations by cutting niche-oriented business ventures. Two sources familiar with the decision said the plan to kill FilmStruck was made prior to AT&T’s closing the Time Warner deal; in any case, the strategy aligns with the new WarnerMedia blueprint to shift resources to mass-market entertainment services." (Variety, Oct 26)  Warner may well have conceived such a blueprint before the merger, but I have no doubt that AT&T had a hand in this, and Warner's blueprint may well have been cooked up in order to make the company more attractive to such a merger.  

 

Anyway, I find the justifications all a bit hard to swallow: "Turner and WB Digital Networks said, “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. While FilmStruck has a very loyal fanbase, it remains largely a niche service." (quoted from the Variety article).  If they are so proud of FilmStruck, then why couldn't they get behind it and market it properly?  If TCM can command enough of the cable TV market to make it viable, FilmStruck certainly could command enough of the online streaming market to do so.  All it takes is imaginative marketing to spread the word and create sufficient enticements.  To call a channel that streams the very best cinema a mere "niche service" is a gross misconception.  It's only a niche if you treat it as such, which is what they did.  But WarnerMedia's shift to "mass-market entertainment services" really means that they are just going to do what everyone else is doing, and we already have more than enough of that. They are simply joining the Limbo of Mediocrity that rules our media environment.  Monopolies like this are prejudicial to the interests of consumers, even if they offer their services more cheaply.  Everything else is cheapened too.  Quality is not something you can measure on a graph.

Back in June AT&T issued a celebratory comment on its acquisition.
Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T said: “The content and creative talent at Warner Bros., HBO and Turner are first-rate. Combine all that with AT&T’s strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience.”  The statement went on to tout the "Premium Content" that AT&T now was able to distribute.  Turns out that was all just bushwa. Rather than differentiation, they are opting for centralization and homogeneity; and their notion of "high quality" has little to do with actual content. They are technicians, tinkerers.  

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9 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

I knew they were wasting too much money on free t-shirts.

They were giving away t-shirts? Or are you confusing them with TCM Backlot?

As far as I know, Backlot isn't going anywhere. But then again, there's not much downside to charging people fees for no discernible products or services, other than the oft-mentioned t-shirts.

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1 hour ago, scsu1975 said:

I knew they were wasting too much money on free t-shirts.

So now I'm really ****. Not only are they cutting me off, they didn't give me a t-shirt either!  Something to remember them by would have been a small consolation ?

 

Btw, scsu1975, love the profile pic. 

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4 hours ago, macocael said:

It turns out that this is all a part of the nefarious attempt by AT&T "to not seem like a giant monopolistic media company sucking at the teet of the American public by relying on subsidies and overpriced data plans to stay afloat," as one writer on Gizmodo put it.  In the Variety article announcing the move, they state that "The move appeared to be the latest by WarnerMedia, under AT&T’s ownership, to streamline operations by cutting niche-oriented business ventures. Two sources familiar with the decision said the plan to kill FilmStruck was made prior to AT&T’s closing the Time Warner deal; in any case, the strategy aligns with the new WarnerMedia blueprint to shift resources to mass-market entertainment services." (Variety, Oct 26)  Warner may well have conceived such a blueprint before the merger, but I have no doubt that AT&T had a hand in this, and Warner's blueprint may well have been cooked up in order to make the company more attractive to such a merger.  

AT&T's all for the General Warner service, because it means they can ditch their own failing attempt at a streaming channel.  (The one that was supposed to attract all their smartphone customers, most of whom never even knew it existed.)

Filmstruck's cult was so uber-loyal because--coming from the already existing Blu-DVD uber-cults online for Criterion and Warner Archive--its members felt like they were an "outpost" against, quote, "Mad King Ludwig"'s attempt to wipe any pre-1985 movies off the face of the earth.  As long as FS was the baby of two "overlooked" companies who were still in touch with the public, it felt like movie fans were safe, but now, Warner needs to make a few changes in what movies it thinks are "worth showing" to a "mass-market audience".  The main studio already believes there's only three old vintage movies the public wants to see, and that the rest can go hang.

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" The move appeared to be the latest by WarnerMedia, under AT&T’s ownership, to streamline operations by cutting niche-oriented business ventures. "

How long until AT&T considers TCM to be a niche-oriented business venture that needs to be cut? Hmmmm. As everything gets swallowed into a few mega corporations, more and more things become homogenized and mediocre. How sad.

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I like a simple, 13" b&w, curved-screen, Magnaxox with rabbit-ears, myself. With a remote-control that doesn't work. No big media conglomerate can "cut its costs" in any way that affects me. In fact, I'm fine watching snow if I have to.

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Heh heh heh! ^_^ But I know for a fact right this moment, I can get up, walk over to my Magnavox, and watch snow if I wish. I had some on a couple weeks ago while I was making stew. I don't have any kind of cable or dish or nuttin'.

And I aims to stay that way, ma'am!

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This is just the tip of the streaming iceberg. With so many streaming options coming on,$15 here and $15 there it can add up. Not ever genre is worth its own pay channel. This is what cable would look like is they all could go a la carte, most would go under.

To ask a person to pay for a service like cable/satellite, or a skinny bundle like Sling or Directv Now then netflix or Amazon prime or Hulu, then Filmstruck too ? It gets to be a bit much to handle. People today are trying lighten their load, not increase it.

And throw in the fact that so many who enjoy classic films tend to be older, many of which are on fixed incomes, that extra cost can be too much.

And I did read on here that Filmstruck didn't make all of the movies available all of the time. That's just being too cute. So they can say things like: "Next month, Giant is being added to the schedule" to create excitement. Rather than to just put all the movies on so people can watch.

I don't think this was thought through. Streaming channels aren't always the panacea many think them to be.

 

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10 hours ago, GGGGerald said:

This is just the tip of the streaming iceberg. With so many streaming options coming on,$15 here and $15 there it can add up. Not ever genre is worth its own pay channel. This is what cable would look like is they all could go a la carte, most would go under.

To ask a person to pay for a service like cable/satellite, or a skinny bundle like Sling or Directv Now then netflix or Amazon prime or Hulu, then Filmstruck too ? It gets to be a bit much to handle. People today are trying lighten their load, not increase it.

And throw in the fact that so many who enjoy classic films tend to be older, many of which are on fixed incomes, that extra cost can be too much.

And I did read on here that Filmstruck didn't make all of the movies available all of the time. That's just being too cute. So they can say things like: "Next month, Giant is being added to the schedule" to create excitement. Rather than to just put all the movies on so people can watch.

I don't think this was thought through. Streaming channels aren't always the panacea many think them to be.

 

On the contrary, the fee for combined viewing of FilmStruck and the Criterion Channel was a modest $10.99, and for those of us who appreciate the incredible library of films, which included not just Classic Hollywood but much much more, this was the solution to our cinematic needs, a solution like no other, because it did not try to be like every other streaming channel.  Though Warner and AT&T refer to it as a "niche service," it was not confined, content-wise, to any one genre or niche; it offered the very best of film art, which is not a marginal thing, but the very core of this modern art form.  I personally would gladly pay much more for this service.

 

 Lightening the TV load is no problem for most of us, because FS was the single most important channel in our menu, and there was no need to subscribe to all that other dreck.  Like many another consumer decision, it is simply a matter of priorities, and one can easily budget for it and keep costs down. The audience for FS need not be limited to older people on fixed incomes, because it was not just about classic films; it went beyond the TCM model.  It was a channel for filmmakers, film students, art house fans, global cinema fans, etc.  Plenty of young people would get on board, if the marketing people had taken a more aggressive and imaginative approach.

 

And as for making all the movies available all the time—there is so much available that it is impossible for anyone to encompass it all, and some rotation was not only desirable but necessary.  Plus the weekly presentation of new fare is expertly and enticingly done, so it is a pleasure to look forward to Fridays, when they break out the new themed collections, double bills (on Criterion), and director packages.  The curation is a big part of what makes FilmStruck so good.  Moreover, if a film expires on FilmStruck, it is likely still accessible via Criterion, so subscribing to both streams ensures that one can still see, for example, all of Bergman's films even after that segment on FilmStruck has been retired to make way for the films of some other director.

One of the considerable strengths of FilmStruck is that it IS very well thought through—it is the most intelligent streaming channel I have ever watched.  Unlike the haphazard organization that characterizes Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, FilmStruck exhibits not just a superior understanding of film art, but a keen grasp of how best to present it.

Streaming as a whole may not be a panacea, but FilmStruck certainly is manna for serious cinephiles. And the fact is, streaming is the future of Television, and channels like TCM need to establish some dominion over this new market, or they will disappear. FilmStruck is a wonderful means for TCM to accomplish that.

 

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17 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I like a simple, 13" b&w, curved-screen, Magnaxox with rabbit-ears, myself. With a remote-control that doesn't work. No big media conglomerate can "cut its costs" in any way that affects me. In fact, I'm fine watching snow if I have to.

 

16 hours ago, Hepburn Fan said:

You a funny guy. Digital TV has no snow. It either works or doesn't. Your Maggot Box and bunny ears might be useless too. Snow is on the way to NY. Git yourself a DVD mo-chine and watch Back To The Future III. Things will feel rite at home. Thanks again, Sgt_Markoff, for being with this forum. You make bad things good again.?

And if one lives near a big city, there are lots of new "free" digital channels to watch, some even playing old movies. Would need a newer tv for that though. I watch free tv all the time. I will be tonight because The Saint is coming on.

4 hours ago, macocael said:

On the contrary, the fee for combined viewing of FilmStruck and the Criterion Channel was a modest $10.99, and for those of us who appreciate the incredible library of films, which included not just Classic Hollywood but much much more, this was the solution to our cinematic needs, a solution like no other, because it did not try to be like every other streaming channel.  

 

Not everyone can pay $120 a year for one channel. There are not enough "serious cinephiles" to support a channel that costs more than its competition.

The others you call dreck are in business while FS is going out of business. That is really all that matters.

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2 hours ago, GGGGerald said:


And if one lives near a big city, there are lots of new "free" digital channels to watch, some even playing old movies. Would need a newer tv for that though. I watch free tv all the time. I will be tonight because The Saint is coming on.

Digital HD flatscreens have certainly, er...come down in price since the FCC first made them mandatory back in '08.  TEN YEARS AGO.

I'm not sure whether the craze for "Channel 10.2" digital splinter channels is still popular in some area stations, as all local network affiliates have moved to digital-HD free-broacast, but I miss ThisTV before it disappeared in our area.  Either the cable company or the network got tired of it.  (Eh, it was only showing the MGM Orphans anyway.)

Quote

Not everyone can pay $120 a year for one channel. There are not enough "serious cinephiles" to support a channel that costs more than its competition.

The others you call dreck are in business while FS is going out of business. That is really all that matters.

That's exactly what people pay every year for Netflix, just for the low-tech name-association of having a cover-all one-stop service, even as the movies vanish and the original series get more and more foreign.  It was the one pooper-spoiler to studios' dream of ten or twenty select vanity services, namely that people still expect ONE service to deliver everything, just like cable did.  For some it's still Netflix (go figure), others made a big rebellious give-us-Barabbas show of dropping Netflix and Amazon for the "life-improving" classic movies of Filmstruck.

The reason the other services are around and Filmstruck isn't, is that they weren't becoming corporately inconvenient to Warner.  Except for HBO Now, and we shall see what happens...

Still, as one Musta-Flopped poster pointed out, it would've been nice if Filmstruck had finally delivered on that X-Box/PS game-console streaming app they'd been promising users for two years.  At least now I don't have to worry about whether to buy an Amazon Fire Stick or an AppleTV just to watch FS, and which has the worse reception for loading.

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7 hours ago, EricJ said:

I'm not sure whether the craze for "Channel 10.2" digital splinter channels is still popular in some area stations, as all local network affiliates have moved to digital-HD free-broacast, but I miss ThisTV before it disappeared in our area.  Either the cable company or the network got tired of it.  (Eh, it was only showing the MGM Orphans anyway.)

That's exactly what people pay every year for Netflix, just for the low-tech name-association of having a cover-all one-stop service,

 

Well, I'm watching ThisTV as I write this. Channels move around and they juggle the content but, its free.

If AT&T or Warner or whomever is involved, you can expect the bottom line to be first priority. I only pay $8 for Netflix and its still the cheapest of the majors. I have SlingTV, cheapest of those services. That's my price point.

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I cut the cable cord over 10 years ago and just acquired streaming within the last year. There is so much of interesting classic movies/TV shows/interviews available, I haven't had to subscribe to any paid streaming yet.

I'm willing to, when "free" is exhausted. Sorry I missed FilmStruck.

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I have come across a couple good articles that explain the real loss this represents, and the best is Joanna Scutts' piece in Slate:

"The strangled corporate newspeak of the memo announcing the closure, with its reference to the “learnings” to be gleaned from the FilmStruck experiment, engenders the same kind of helpless rage as the tortured syntax of Donald Trump’s tweets—it’s so painfully revealing of the kind of grandiose carelessness that is the hallmark of power right now.

As Warner gears up to face down Disney with its direct-to-consumer streaming service, launching next year, it’s clear that the company has no interest in catering to passionate fans of its back catalog, only in chasing the largest possible audience for its new releases. What’s not clear is why it has to be a zero-sum game, and why efforts at preservation and education have to be eliminated in order to chase the biggest possible audience and present them with a library far broader than it is deep. . . . This is a slow erosion of cultural heritage under the guise of infinite availability. Titles that are not available to stream will be harder to assign in classes, will cease to bubble up into the cultural awareness, and will eventually cease to matter. . . . 

FilmStruck . . .   set out to teach you something new, not just to feed you more helpings of what you already know you like. It employed a team of smart women and brought in directors like Barry Jenkins to record short, passionate introductions to films they loved. Its personality shone through tightly curated collections, from a timely gathering of all the previous incarnations of A Star Is Born, to a larger batch of Japanese horror titles, to deep dives into a particular director or cinematographer. It offered up inventive double-feature pairings and led you through its extensive archives in ways that were creative, cheeky, thought-provoking, and unpretentious. It made it clear that a passion for art-house and classic film was not exclusive to old white men. That kind of personality, that kind of discoverability, that kind of curation, can’t be replicated by an algorithm. It takes time, money, and effort. It takes thought and education. It takes human beings."

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On 10/27/2018 at 3:46 PM, GGGGerald said:

 

Not everyone can pay $120 a year for one channel. There are not enough "serious cinephiles" to support a channel that costs more than its competition.

The others you call dreck are in business while FS is going out of business. That is really all that matters.

First of all, this is not about the lack of sufficient patronage to provide "support" — WarnerMedia never claimed to have done this as a money saving move.  Second, there are in fact enough serious cinephiles to make it viable, and we should not assume that mass market entertainment cannot make room for a few niche services, if the relation is handled smartly.  TCM itself is evidence of that.  Just as TCM is a viable cable enterprise, FilmStruck was proving to be a viable streaming enterprise.  And to argue that "all that matters" is that the dreck stays in business while FS goes out, as if that somehow proves the immutability of some imagined law of the market, is to jump to conclusions.  All it proves is that WarnerMedia is aiming for mediocre mass entertainment, rather than keep already viable niche services going.  It's not a question of non-profitability but simply a naked grab for mass profitability and disregard for the smaller profits to be had by investing in quality cinema.  As Joanna Scutts put it, "it’s clear that the company has no interest in catering to passionate fans of its back catalog, only in chasing the largest possible audience for its new releases. What’s not clear is why it has to be a zero-sum game, and why efforts at preservation and education have to be eliminated in order to chase the biggest possible audience and present them with a library far broader than it is deep. . . . This is a slow erosion of cultural heritage under the guise of infinite availability."

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2 hours ago, macocael said:

"The strangled corporate newspeak of the memo announcing the closure, with its reference to the “learnings” to be gleaned from the FilmStruck experiment, engenders the same kind of helpless rage as the tortured syntax of Donald Trump’s tweets—it’s so painfully revealing of the kind of grandiose carelessness that is the hallmark of power right now.

Mentioning FilmStruck and Trump in the same sentence brings up the same reason that FilmstruckMania rubbed the hairs on the back of my neck the same way--
I remember one political satire that showed red-cap Trump supporters as saying "You promised to FIX me! :( ", and we were almost literally hearing the exact same thing from the uptown and suburban FilmStruck fans:

The trendy new fans broadcasted their FS queues to the world, first bragging, like Netflix, that they had finally cut the cord and flipped a bird to the expensive cable companies...But then, once the movies disappeared off of Netflix and were replaced by weird Swedish and Korean series, at the same time as Warner Instant Archive started moving Gene Kelly and James Dean to the former "Criterion channel", the movement turned to a greater desire to flip a finger to Netflix and Amazon.  You didn't just watch Filmstruck because it had vintage movies and Netflix Prime didn't, you watched it because it was, quote, TEACHING you about a great film every night...It was the TED-talk channel of movies.

And in the wake of the mania, I confess to getting a little shirty on my blog about the "If it's not on streaming, it doesn't exist" era, the fact that the same movies had been on disk all this time for twenty years (even for those who don't have cable/TCM), that the mania basically was an unfocused tantrum at a lot of the "betrayals" of the unrealistic hopes viewers had over their dream of the Post-TV Era, and that you don't need to pay a service to teach you how to be curious enough to learn something.  Great films, even less.  

https://movieactivist.blogspot.com/2018/04/will-you-accept-this-flower-from-holy.html

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