Selling video subscriptions directly to consumers is hard — just ask Lionsgate.
The studio is in the process of winding down the consumer business of Comic-Con HQ, the niche video service it launched in cooperation with Comic-Con some 18 months ago. The studio will give up on selling subscriptions directly to consumers, and instead license existing Comic-Con HQ content to other platforms, Variety has learned from a source familiar with the transition.
Apps for the channel have already been removed from Google and Apple’s app stores, but consumers have apparently not been notified yet. Some of Comic-Con HQ’s content is expected to show up on ad-supported platforms like Tubi TV and Roku’s recently launched Roku Channel, and Amazon will continue to sell Comic-Con HQ’s catalog through its Channels video subscription platform.
Lionsgate launched Comic-Con HQ in May of 2016 with the goal of giving Comic-Con’s rabid fan base their very own TV-like channel online. The channel hosted video from Comic-Con events as well as original scripted and unscripted content, including “Kings of Con,” a comedy series starring “Supernatural’s” Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict.
However, in recent months, Comic-Con HQ gradually scaled down its content plans. The channel stopped producing original content, and also didn’t add any of this year’s Comic-Con panels to its catalog. Instead, Comic-Con HQ increasingly relied on movies from Lionsgate’s catalog — something that didn’t really go over well with its audience, judging from recent reviews of the channel on Amazon Channels.
Comic-Con HQ is just the latest in a number of exits or pivots among niche subscription video services. In recent months, NBC shut down its paid comedy service Seeso, Vessel sold and shuttered its short-form video service, and Verizon gave up on plans to launch a standalone paid AwesomenessTV service.
That being said, there are still more than 100 such niche services vying for consumers’ eyeballs and dollars. Lionsgate is still running multiple paid video services as well, including its indie film-focused Tribeca Shortlist subscription service, its Laugh Out Loud comedy service and Pantaya, the Spanish-language movie service it launched together with Hemisphere Media this summer.