WarnerMedia is shutting down FilmStruck, its streaming service focused on movie fans.
The move comes four months after AT&T bought Time Warner Inc. and installed its own executive, John Stankey, to run the media enterprise. This month Stankey unveiled his plan for a comprehensive streaming service featuring WarnerMedia content, including shows from HBO. The company has since been purging small digital efforts that the previous regime had supported.
FilmStruck was launched by Turner in 2016 and drew a small but loyal audience. It recently added classic Warner Bros. movies such as “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane” to its catalog. The move — a collaborative effort between Turner and Burbank-based Warner Bros. — was intended to give a lift to the fledgling $6.99-a-month service, which boasted some international customers.
Atlanta-based FilmStruck will end operations Nov. 29, the company said Friday. FilmStruck, which has operations in Los Angeles, began international distribution this spring in Britain, France and Spain.
“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,” the company said in a statement. “While FilmStruck has a very loyal fanbase, it remains largely a niche service.”
The company declined to say how many employees would lose their jobs. It also refused to provide FilmStruck’s subscriber count.
Last week, WarnerMedia closed Super Deluxe, an eclectic digital studio in downtown Los Angeles that also found success producing scripted shows for other outlets, including Netflix. More than 50 people employed by Super Deluxe lost their jobs. They were provided with two months of severance pay.
This month, WarnerMedia also put on ice DramaFever, a 9-year-old Korean drama streaming service that Warner Bros. bought two years ago from Japan's SoftBank Group. The company cited “business reasons and … the rapidly changing marketplace for K-drama content” for the DramaFever closure. Several DramaFever employees were retained to help run the Warner Bros. Digital Labs.
In contrast, two months ago AT&T doubled down on a batch of smaller digital properties: It spent $600 million to buy out the Chernin Group’s stake in Otter Media, which had been a joint venture. The Dallas phone giant now owns 100% of Otter Media. That includes Ellation, which runs anime streaming service Crunchyroll, and Fullscreen, which houses the content lab Rooster Teeth.
For FilmStruck, the closure marks a quick change of fortunes. This year, Turner and Warner Bros. executives began retooling FilmStruck, in large part because it had such a dedicated fan base.
Warner Bros. had long tightly held its popular film classics, including those acquired over the years such as "The Thin Man." It had never licensed them to a third-party subscription video-on-demand service such as Netflix, but turned many of the titles over to Turner for inclusion in the FilmStruck offerings.
“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,” WarnerMedia said.
FilmStruck’s closure, however, leaves in doubt the fate of the independent Criterion Channel, which has been available through FilmStruck since late 2016. Turner said no decision has been made on that.
“We’re currently working with all our partners, including Criterion, to determine the outcome of their content,” a Turner spokesperson said.
The Criterion Collection, on its website, mourned news of FilmStruck’s closure: “Like many of you, we are disappointed by this decision. … All this is very new, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as we learn more details. But rest assured that we are still committed to restoring and preserving the best of world cinema and bringing it to you in any medium we can.”