Criterion Channel Gives Classic Films New Streaming Life After FilmStruck Demise

In a strikingly quick turnaround by the standards of subscription streaming, the Criterion Channel officially launched today, less than six months after the demise of the late, lamented FilmStruck.

Deadline spoke with Criterion Collection president Peter Becker about the relaunch, but before we get to the conversation, here is a brief recap. WarnerMedia has been reassessing its overall streaming portfolio under AT&Ts ownership and preparing a major subscription service for launch later this year. In that context, it decided last fall to unplug FilmStruck. The collaboration between Turner Classic Movies and Criterion was a niche service, but among its most ardent fans were numerous A-list filmmakers and other Hollywood notables, who voiced their frustration in open letters. Amid the outcry, Criterion and WarnerMedia negotiated new deals for films and other programming on FilmStuck to be made available through the new Criterion Channel. The service costs $10.99 per month or $99.99 a year and can be accessed through web browsers as well as apps designed for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, iOS, and Android and Android TV devices.

In our conversation, Becker revisited the events of last fall and offered a tour of the new service and how it fits into the larger streaming landscape. The following are edited excerpts.

DEADLINE: On behalf of cinephiles everywhere, welcome back. And just to clarify, some Criterion titles are available through Kanopy, the streaming service supported through public library systems, correct?

PETER BECKER: Yes, about 50 classic films from the Janus Films library are on Kanopy. We consider those building blocks of cinema culture and consciousness. We thought, They should be in the public library so we should make that work.'”

DEADLINE: But the rest of your library is only available on the new service?

BECKER: Yes, about 1,000 Janus films will be continuously available for the first time since FilmStrcuk shut down at the end of November. The Seventh Seal, Seven Samurai, Beauty and the Beast and so many others, for the first time they had been unavailable for a stretch in streaming.

DEADLINE: What did you think about the reaction to FilmStruck going dark?

BECKER: The shutdown of FilmStruck I wont say took us by surprise. The writing had been on the wall. Other services at WarnerMedia got shut down as well. We had made some last entreaties. In all of these large, asymmetrical part we recognize that we have to be flexible and nimble and go with the flow. We knew that we didnt have much choice. When they announced it in October, thats when all of the responses started to come in. We really had nothing to do with it. It was really kind of astonishing. This incredible welling up of support. There were something like 400 million Twitter mentions of the word “FilmStruck” in the first 24 hours. We were watching this all happen and my daughter actually told me. She said, Dad, have you seen this petition? It was extremely heartening.

DEADLINE: Now that you are charting your own course, how does it feel to have done this independently?

BECKER: This is the first time we havent had a pretty big heavyweight partner [after previous partnerships with Hulu and WarnerMedia]. Its time. What became clear at the the end of FilmStuck is that there is an audience that passionately cares. Not just what to watch but why, how it fits in, seeing film culture as a wider conversation.

DEADLINE: Did WarnerMedia decide to throw in the towel because they intend to use Warner Bros. titles in their own streaming service?

BECKER: Im not going to characterize what their intentions are. But they did give pretty clear reasons. No matter how successful we were, we werent going to move the needle as much as they needed it to move. [Ultimately] a service like ours is still going to be a tiny fraction of Netflix, Hulu, WarnerMedia.

DEADLINE: Do you feel like Criterion Channel is built to last longer thaRead More – Source