Fullscreen Shutting Down Subscription VOD Service, Will Lay Off 25 Employees

Fullscreen Media is pulling the plug on its subscription-video service — less than two years after launching it — and is laying off about 25 employees with the shutdown.

Fullscreen SVOD, a Netflix-style service aimed at younger audiences weaned on YouTube and social media, will be shuttered in January 2018. From all appearances, the $6-per-month service never got any serious traction with its mix of talk shows, unscripted series, scripted dramas, and licensed TV shows and movies.

Founder and CEO George Strompolos broke the news in a memo to staff Monday, which also was posted on the Medium blog site. “Decisions like this are tough, but I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished,” he wrote.

According to Strompolos, the company “came to the conclusion that funding SVOD — a longer-term investment — was limiting our ability to invest in our Creator, Brand, and Rooster Teeth divisions that have more established scale and immediate impact.”

Fullscreen GM Scott Reich, who was overseeing the SVOD service, will remain in his current role while the service fully winds down through the end of the year, according to a company rep. The roles of the creative execs who were developing programming for the SVOD platform is yet to be determined.

The news comes just two months after Fullscreen announced that it was cutting 3% of its staff, as part of refocusing the SVOD service on original programming. Fullscreen SVOD launched in April 2016, and the company never disclosed how many subscribers signed up for the service. In the staff memo, Strompolos claimed Fullscreen SVOD had attracted “hundreds of thousands” of customers.

Fullscreen is owned by Otter Media, the joint venture of AT&T and Chernin Group, which acquired majority control of Fullscreen in 2014. It started life in 2011 as a YouTube multichannel network, and its network of affiliated creators remains a big piece of its business.

Original series on Fullscreen SVOD have included “Shane & Friends,” hosted by Shane Dawson, “Shay Mitchell: Chapters” and “Psychobabble with Tyler Oakley & Korey Kuhl.” Fullscreen also is the exclusive streaming home to series like “Magic Funhouse” and Bret Easton Ellis thriller “The Deleted,” and movies including “The Carmilla Movie,” based on the lesbian-vampire romance web series, Vertical Entertainment’s “Don’t Hang Up” and Big Block’s “Tell Me How I Die.”

As recently as August, the company announced a fall slate of originals for Fullscreen SVOD service, including comedy “Alive in Denver” starring Nathan Kress (“iCarly”) and Danielle Campbell (“The Originals”) and a time-travel comedy starring teen social-media star Jay Versace.

It’s not clear where Fullscreen’s SVOD originals might wind up after the service shuts down. A company spokesman said projects that have not launched yet, including “Alive in Denver,” will likely be sold or mothballed.

“The future of Fullscreen’s library of original content is still being worked out in real time,” the rep said.

Here’s the memo from Strompolos announcing the decision:

Team:

When we set out to launch our own SVOD service, we knew it would be a huge challenge. We wanted to provide a new platform for the breakthrough creators, personalities and storytellers of social entertainment — and the fans who love them.

A lot went right. Our talented team built and launched a best-in-class OTT product experience from scratch. We created bold, first-of-its-kind original programming that resonated with young fans. Millions downloaded our app and hundreds of thousands became paying subscribers.

Despite our momentum, we’ve made the difficult decision to shut down the Fullscreen SVOD service in January 2018. We came to the conclusion that funding SVOD — a longer-term investment — was limiting our ability to invest in our Creator, Brand, and Rooster Teeth divisions that have more established scale and immediate impact. I shared this news in person with the core SVOD team earlier today.

Many smart, creative people gave so much in pursuit of this ambitious project, from our staff to our talent and partners. In addition, many young fans supported us by subscribing with their own hard-earned money. We thank you all for giving us a chance.

Going forward, we will double-down on our mission to empower creators and bring brands closer to fans. The award-winning product experience and technology we’ve developed over the past two years will be valuable as we build new brands and content offerings in the future. We will continue to identify and invest in talented creators and make ambitious bets to push the space forward. It’s in our DNA. I will share more details about our evolving strategy at the December all-hands meeting.

Onward,
George

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