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Bringing the Art House Home via OTT

Turner’s first-ever digital streaming service, FilmStruck, will debut Oct. 19 by offering more than 900 classic, independent and foreign films to consumers on a subscription video-on-demand basis. A major component of the service will be exclusive access to the Criterion Collection studio library, which will launch on the service sometime in November.

FilmStruck and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) general manager Jennifer Dorian recently spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the appeal of the service as well as FilmStruck’s potential subscriber base. Here’s an edited excerpt of their conversation.

NTV: What was the thinking behind creating the FilmStruck brand?
Jennifer Dorian:
We have researched that a lot of fans are having a hard time with critically acclaimed, hard-to-find films and they are looking for them in multiple places, whether its streaming, on cable or on DVD and Blu-ray collections. We felt like this was the promise of the Internet: to put everything together in one place and really curate to a niche audience.

The economics work for streaming to niche audiences, so we were thinking that art house, independent cinema is a niche that’s underserved and we could be the home for it.

NTV: Why not launch the service in the linear cable space, similar to TCM?
TCM is doing well and thriving in its environment on linear cable and with its TV everywhere authenticated app, so let that service do its thing. This is a new way for us to experiment and maybe take some risks that I wouldn’t want to take with a gem of a treasured brand such as TCM.

NTV: Will most of the content for FilmStruck come from the TCM library?
We’ve worked with 30 distributors — mostly independent distributors and some major studios, like Miramax and Sony Pictures Classics — and we’ve cultivated a new library that is different than TCM. This is a departure from classic Hollywood. There are major film industries in Japan, Sweden, France, Italy, Mexico and Bollywood, so we’re going to have some fun with different storytellers from around the world. The first release of the service [includes] 23 movies from 23 countries and 15 languages. It’s a very different library than TCM.

NTV: How important is the Criterion Collection library acquisition for the service?
It’s really huge that we are the exclusive streaming home for the Criterion library because they are a very respected and acclaimed name, they are a great brand and they have supplemental materials that are incredible for over 1,200 titles.

NTV: What specific audience demo do you expect to sign up for FilmStruck?
Our research and our gut are both matching — we think it’s younger, 25-to-44-year-olds who are already streaming on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. They also all have pay TV cable as well; it’s not about cord-cutting, but rather loving entertainment so much that that’s where you spend a lot of your money. We’re also going after art-house film lovers who are streamers, and presumably they are easy to target and find through digital advertising as well as through community events and gatherings.

NTV: What platforms will FilmStruck be available on?
We will initially launch on the Web via desktop, iOS and mobile devices and Android mobile devices. We’ll be exclusive on Amazon Fire TV for 30 days and then in late November we’ll be added to Apple TV OS fourth-generation generation [player]. December through March [2017] we’ll be adding Chromecast, Roku and PlayStation 4.

NTV: What makes you so confident that people will want to purchase a subscription to watch classic and art-house films in an ultra-crowded digital content environment?
I think that the big players in the U.S. have already taken over the role of being all things to everybody, which leaves room for the independent niche services that appeal to fandoms and hobbyists, and I think the film community and film culture is a great community that needs to be served.

It’s less about streaming movies and more about celebrating film culture and film as art. Yes, we’re streaming movies, but we’re also streaming thematic curation and supplements that make you have a deeper, more immersive experience.