FilmStruck a casualty of Time Warner acquisition

Will smaller services be gobbled up by the big fish?

■ By Jim Hitt / Media Columnist

On Nov. 29, FilmStruck will have ceased operations. It catered to film enthusiasts. The streaming service focused on older films from Warner Bros., RKO and other studios. It also included the Criterion Collection, comprised of important films from around the world and included the works of directors such as Jean Renoir, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa. American directors included Samuel Fuller, Howard Hawks and John Ford.
FilmStruck was owned and operated by Time Warner, which in June of this year was bought by AT&T. The mega-company also owns HBO. On Oct. 26, AT&T announced it was closing FilmStruck. I would think the service was making a profit since they charged $99 a year and had 100,000 subscribers. Apparently, it wasn’t enough profit for AT&T.
As a subscriber, I received a refund on my remaining balance. Personally, I would rather have FilmStruck survive.
Plenty of streaming services remain on the internet. The Big Three—Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu—remain viable. So what’s the problem? FilmStruck was a niche service, aimed at a particular audience. My fear is that film past will disappear in favor of film now. The remaining streaming services will slowly gobble up the smaller ones and will concentrate more and more on current titles. Why keep a backlog of older titles when it’s the new ones that bring in the big bucks?
AT&T defended their acquisition by claiming they could not survive in the streaming universe alone because Netflix and Hulu were killing them. AT&T says it is now preparing its own streaming service due to launch next year.
I suspect over the next few years, we will see more and more small services fold. I also believe that some niche services such as Fandor and the new Criterion service debuting in the spring of 2019 will survive.
A shakeup in service was inevitable. When cable television first came along, hundreds of channels appeared. Some have fallen by the wayside. The same will happen to streaming services. For film fans though, let us hope that the past is not lost in the rush for the here and now.

Capsule review
Z Nation (Netflix, 4 seasons): This series was obviously inspired by The Walking Dead. While not exactly a copycat, Z Nation covers much the same territory.
The storyline is simple enough. After the zombie virus has destroyed much of the world, a group from New York band together to transport the only known survivor of the plague to California. There the last viral lab waits for his blood. Perhaps they can find a cure.
Occasionally involving, at times too violent, sometimes silly. Wrap-up: For extreme zombie fans only. My overall grade: C-


About the author: Jim Hitt is a multi-degreed local author who wrote The American West, From Fiction into Film (McFarland, 1991) and Words and Shadows (Citadel, 1993), an examination of American literature’s role in film. He has published numerous novels, and his awards include “best fantasy story,” OnceWritten.com, and “grand prize, fiction,” Next Generation Indie Book Awards. His latest novel, Bodie, was released Sept. 1 published by Black Horse Press. Jim can be reached at jvhitt@hotmail.com.

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