Criterion Channel Lives! Founder Explains Going Solo After FilmStruck’s Death

IndieWire | 4/8/2019 | Staff
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Criterion Collection president Peter Becker knew FilmStruck’s death was imminent, weeks in advance of news reports late last October. And long before industry luminaries ranging from Martin Scorsese to Bill Hader sent up flares to save the Turner Classic Movies streaming platform, Becker and his peers had a contingency plan to save FilmStruck’s Criterion Channel.

“Our question wasn’t, ‘What other big service are we turning to?’” said Becker in an interview from Criterion’s Park Avenue offices. “Our first question was, ‘Is it time to start our own channel?’”

Time - Criterion - Vimeo - Services - Backend

For the first time, however, Criterion is going solo. Vimeo provides technical services on the backend, with Criterion employing a handful of full-time staffers committed to curating the service. The relaunch, which follows two years of outsourcing to FilmStruck and several more in which the Criterion Collection was housed by Hulu, illustrates the growing popularity of niche streaming platforms that have more manageable expectations than the studio-sized ambitions of Netflix, Amazon, Warner Bros., Disney, and others. After two years, FilmStruck amassed a reported subscriber base of 100,000 (though some insiders estimated half that amount).

Whatever the figure, it was one that hardly justified the overhead for the streaming service’s overseers. Becker said he didn’t fault corporate parent Warner Bros. for that conclusion.

Problem - Matter - Matter - Needle - Corporation

“I think the problem was that, no matter how steadily it grew, and no matter how big it got, it wasn’t going to get big enough or lucrative enough to move the needle for a massive corporation,” he said. “They were saying, ‘Where do we want to focus our attention?’” The answer is, probably not on niches.”

Warners maintains a licensing deal with Criterion, and he credited the studio for allowing the service to carve out a deal that allowed its library to stream on the Criterion Channel. “They recognized, I think rightly, there was...
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