• FilmStruck, A New Turner SVOD Service, Lures Criterion Movies From Hulu

    Turner announced this morning that it will launch a new ad-free SVOD service this Fall dubbed FilmStruck, which will be managed by Turner Classic Movies and exclusively draw on movies from Criterion Collection. According to the release, FilmStruck is targeted to “diehard movie enthusiasts who crave a deep, intimate experience independent, foreign and art house films.”

    A Turner spokesperson confirmed that Criterion’s 1,000 movie catalog will move over from Hulu in November, where it has been under an exclusive deal announced in February, 2011 and extended in April, 2014.

    FilmStruck subscribers will gain access to a “constantly refreshed” selection of films from Criterion which will be curated by TCM. The Turner spokesperson said that although TCM actually licenses some Criterion titles, it would be rare when the exact same movies would be available on TCM and FilmStruck concurrently.

    You.i is FilmStruck’s app development partner and Accenture is the platform solution provider.

    In addition to the core FilmStruck service, a premium tier will also be available, called The Criterion Channel, which will provide continuous access to Criterion’s full 1,000 movie catalog. No pricing was disclosed for either FilmStruck or The Criterion Channel.

    FilmStruck is another example of how media companies are looking to use the SVOD business model to super-serve niche movie audiences, extending SVOD’s value proposition beyond general entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Examples include Tribeca Shortlist, Lifetime Movie Club, Shudder, Sundance Doc Club, IndieFlix Shorts and others. This path has recently heated up in comedy too, with NBCU’s Seeso, Comedy Central’s Stand-Up Plus and Kevin Hart/Lionsgate startup Laugh Out Loud, among others.

    In addition to going direct-to-consumer, all of these new SVOD services, including FilmStruck, will almost certainly become part of Amazon’s Streaming Partners Program, if they aren’t already. As I wrote last week, Amazon will become a compelling partner for niche SVOD services where Amazon can bring insights from its substantial trove of data on tens of millions of its users to bear on driving new subscriptions, as well as reducing operational complexity.

    For Turner, FilmStruck is its first direct-to-consumer SVOD initiative, but clearly not its last. In March, Turner CEO John Martin said Turner will have “at least a couple of direct-to-consumer products in the marketplace.” Like all major media companies, Turner is eager to test the waters outside of its traditional reliance on the pay-TV and ad-supported ecosystem, as viewers’ expectations and behaviors continue to rapidly evolve.