The move appeared to be the latest by WarnerMedia, under AT&T’s ownership, to streamline operations by cutting niche-oriented business ventures. Two sources familiar with the decision said the plan to kill FilmStruck was made prior to AT&T’s closing the Time Warner deal; in any case, the strategy aligns with the new WarnerMedia blueprint to shift resources to mass-market entertainment services.
The FilmStruck business will cease U.S. and international operations on Nov. 29, 2018, and the service stopped accepting signups on Oct. 26. A Turner rep declined to comment on how many employees will be affected by the closure or provide info on how many employees work on FilmStruck.
In a statement, Turner and WB Digital Networks said, “We’re incredibly proud of the creativity and innovations produced by the talented and dedicated teams who worked on FilmStruck over the past two years. While FilmStruck has a very loyal fanbase, it remains largely a niche service. We plan to take key learnings from FilmStruck to help shape future business decisions in the direct-to-consumer space and redirect this investment back into our collective portfolios.”
The shutdown of FilmStruck, which debuted in November 2016, comes after two other WarnerMedia digital units have gotten the axe.
Warner Bros. Digital Networks’ DramaFever, a subscription VOD service specializing in Korean dramas, was abruptly shut down on Oct. 16. One week ago, Turner announced that it was pulling the plug on edgy digital-content and TV studio Super Deluxe.
AT&T earlier this month signaled that it would move to restructure the WarnerMedia video-streaming portfolio. As part of announcing plans for a broad subscription-streaming entertainment service anchored by HBO that would pull in content from other parts of WarnerMedia, AT&T said it would be “consolidating resources from sub-scale D2C [direct-to-consumer] efforts.”
A source familiar with AT&T’s strategy said the telco is looking to eliminate peripheral projects that aren’t major producers of revenue. “They felt Time Warner overall had too many initiatives,” the exec said. “[AT&T] have their hands full. They have no time to think about, ‘What do we do with this growth property?'”
FilmStruck offered a lineup of some 1,800 contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films and also was the exclusive internet-streaming home to the Criterion Collection of movies. Earlier this year, it added Warner Bros.’ library of classic films; WB shut down the Warner Archive service and migrated customers over to FilmStruck. The service was priced at $10.99 per month with access to the Criterion Collection library, and $6.99 monthly without it.
FilmStruck was developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in conjunction with Warner Bros. Digital Networks, overseen by Coleman Breland, Turner’s president of content experiences and president of TCM and FilmStruck. The companies declined to disclose how many subscribers FilmStruck had signed up.
Titles on FilmStruck had included “Casablanca,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Music Man,” “Bringing Up Baby,” “The Thin Man” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” from Warner Bros. Other movies that were available on FilmStruck previously had included “Babette’s Feast,” “Blow Out,” “Boyhood,” “Breaker Morant,” “Chicago,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “My Life as a Dog,” “Our Song,” “The Player,” “A Room with a View,” “Seven Samurai,” “The Seventh Seal,” “Thelma & Louise,” “The Times of Harvey Milk” and “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.”
On Friday, the FilmStruck site posted this message: “We regret to inform you that FilmStruck will be shutting down. Our last day of service will be November 29, 2018, and we are currently no longer enrolling new subscribers. All current FilmStruck subscribers will receive an email with details about your account and the refund process as applicable. Please see the options below for more information or email the customer service team at email@example.com.”
Turner and WB Digital Networks launched FilmStruck internationally this year. The debut launch was in the the U.K., where it rolled out in conjunction with cinema operator Curzon. In June, FilmStruck launched in France and Spain with local films and titles from the Warner Bros. and Criterion libraries. Turner had appointed Kerensa Samanidis, formerly of the British Film Institute, to run the service internationally.
— Stewart Clarke contributed to this report.