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Shout Factory OTT Service Kicks It Old School… and Scores

Shout Factory TV, to its credit, is up to something a little different. Shout is the long-admired Southern California media boutique started by the founders of Rhino Records. Counting the Rhino days, back to the early 1970s, the group has done business via a Los Angeles record store, music labels and publishing, home video sales, and now streaming distribution. Its new OTT offering, Shout Factory TV, draws on that street-level taste-making sensibility (imagine the cast of High Fidelity building your queue) and strikes an agreeable balance between that curated, old-school experience and modern delivery.

The ad-supported service, built on Hulu’s video player, launched in February on Roku and Xbox and mobile devices supporting HTML5, promising more outlets to come. It does not attempt to compete directly with the breadth of Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, but winds up scoring points as a result of a focus on what it proudly calls “cult and classic” TV and movie fare. Large-scale content hubs from the SVODs to iTunes can sometimes leave a fan of anything released before The Social Network a little hungry (thus the rise of options like Warner Archives or Mubi). And without many OTTs, especially ad-supported ones, aiming to deliver something more satisfying for TV sophisticates (or, OK, hipsters), Shout is definitely on to something.

That means many episodes (though often, for complicated rights reasons, not full series) of shows like Fridays (ABC’s long-ago competitor to Saturday Night Live), Hill Street Blues, Route 66, The Saint and The Twilight Zone. Some newer titles like The Practice and Wilfred are sprinkled in. The fi lm side is even more robust, reflecting Shout Factory’s origins in peddling VHS tapes and DVDs, which once skewed toward movies. From Escape From New York to The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, there is a wide range of options, some of which are unavailable elsewhere, at least not for free. With curation playing a more and more vital role in the content game, an offering like Shout Factory TV is a valuable addition.