Another day, another new streaming subscription service. Tuesday’s addition to the wave of niche streamers is Turner’s FilmStruck, a product aimed at cinephiles who may not already be watching its traditional cable network Turner Classic Movies.
The new streaming service, which won’t launch until the fall, “takes advantage of TCM’s powerful curation capabilities, as well as its proven track record in building a long-term relationship with passionate film fans,” Turner CEO John Martin said in a statement. Martin was careful to point out this isn’t the same as taking TCM over-the-top; it’s an entirely different offering more akin to a Netflix for art-house fans.
FilmStruck doesn’t have a price yet, though a Turner representative said it will be “competitive” with other similar streaming offerings. (That likely means something along the line of $10 a month.) At launch, the service will include a selection of movies from the archive of Turner’s corporate sibling Warner Bros. — both are owned by Time Warner Inc. — and indie studios like Janus Films and Kino. The service will also be the new exclusive online home of the Criterion Collection of films.
Fellow streaming service Hulu has long served as the streaming home of the Criterion Collection, so Turner’s gain might appear at first to be Hulu’s loss. But sources say it didn’t exactly account for a big chunk of Hulu’s viewership, so Hulu isn’t too broken up about losing the collection.
Though Criterion viewership may have been somewhat anemic on another service, that’s no reason to believe Turner can’t make a buck (or 10) from people who can’t live without the ability to stream “Jules and Jim” on their iPad. For Turner, FilmStruck is a first move into selling a service directly to consumers, with at least one more offering set to follow by the end of 2016, if Martin’s previous comments to reporters in March bear out.
And yet there’s a persistent whisper, a nagging voice in the back of the media industry’s head: How many of these streaming services can the market bear?
The costs pile up quickly for cord-cutters, -shavers and –nevers, and for those with pay TV subscriptions who are looking for something a little extra. Even if a streaming service is catering to a very specific group of people, those people have other expenses; not just in the entertainment realm, but in other aspects of their lives.
The price of a latte or two per month — the latte being a favorite price analogy of streaming executives — doesn’t seem like much, until six of them appear on your credit card bill, and you wonder if you really need to be paying every month to watch the Coen brothers’ “Blood Simple,” or for your kid to watch YouTube videos without ads on YouTube Red.
That kind of thinking leads to high customer churn with streaming services, which may not prove too big a deal in these early days. But down the line, as their number increases in near-exponential fashion, the steadily fracturing audience may just burst the bubble.