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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Semi-frequent musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

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Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media

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FilmStruck and the Future of SVOD: Less is not More.

FilmStruck is Dead, which sucks, but it’s just the canary in the OTT-Mine.
While I was gone for 3 weeks, nearly everyone under the sun went ape-shit crazy about FilmStruck shutting its doors. I get this as a cinephile, but I also guessed it wouldn’t last too long when it launched, and amongst all the great stories about its demise (see a few links below), I think the perspective that’s missing is precisely what AT&T/WarnerMedia figured out – niche channels won’t survive in the oncoming content wars.
Less is not more. More is where it’s at and here to stay, because they didn’t just shut the channel, they announced it would be part of a bigger offering – TCM and other “niche” content will be part of a future AT&T WarnerMedia offering that features not just the Classics, but also a lot of everything else.
But that ruins the niche, aficionado experience you say? Nope. Study after study has shown that people who like Classic films, or films about any other niche, also happen to just love films and want to access a bit of everything. The most famous of these studies was Anita Elberse way back when (2008) arguing about the long-tail, and guess what – she’s still right.
If you like movies at all, you will find your way all the way back to Tarantino (cringe, I know, but I sometimes teach and that’s all these kids remember anymore), or way back to Scorsese, or even to Kurosawa, and maybe sideways to Mekas (or go crazy and find Barbara Hammer, or Gordon Parks, or…). But it’s not just about finding history; it’s that people with any taste in any subject, tend to have broad tastes. I find it easier to think about in music terms – if you like Robert Glasper, you probably also like Common, avant-garde jazz, Q-Tip, Kendrick Lamar, Esperanza Spalding and lots of other music too (they’ve all collaborated together). The notion of someone who only likes obscure Japanese noise music is just wrong – the more niche you get in your tastes, the more likely you are to also like a wider range of stuff.
And this is also true for the average Josephine. Why spend $6 bucks a month on all the obscure titles you want from Fandor, if you could spend $8-13 a month and get those plus some Disney titles. In an attention economy of super-abundance, my dollar is going to the widest catalogues, not the most “special.” Wait, what? Doesn’t curation rule online? Yes, but within platforms not between them – and this is the mistake every OTT operator is making. Including Netflix. Have a lot; have the best too. Help me find it through better curatorial tools within your site, so I can weed out what I don’t want to see, but jeesh – if my parents show up at my house and don’t want to watch Stan Brakhage films all weekend, I better have Won’t You Be My Neighbor to stop some fights real fast.
Here’s some of the better FilmStruck death links if you missed the shit-storm:
The Guardian telling us dark days are ahead.
The LA Times saying streaming will erase movie history
Deadline on one of the many petitions to save FilmStruck
Deadline on another petitionThe Hollywood Reporter letting such petitioners take some kind of credit for saving FilmStruck (ahem, they just announced their plans a little earlier, but thanks!)
Sherry Brennan of Fox in MultiChannel being the only adult in the room, telling us “only a handful of platforms can support themselves in the niche OTT world,” and breaking the news that only a small number of subscription-based over-the-top services have more than 100,000 subscribers at this point,” And most of them are churning through customers once they try the free trial period.
John Stankey explaining to the NYT that FilmStruck titles will be on a new WarnerMedia streaming service in 2019.
The Hollywood Reporter on the possible tiered costs of this new service
But if you want to really get in an argument about FilmStruck, make sure you read Katherine Groo in perhaps the most interesting take on FilmStruck of all – that it wasn’t good for moviesin WaPo. Love this: “The failure of such a short-lived service cannot possibly be a threat to film history in any way that matters. Rather, it is a crisis in the digital fantasies of the 21st century: that (privileged) people can have on-demand access to the wealth of human culture.” Or, take this: “The argument that we need immersion in the masters of film to make digital images for streaming platforms is either a category error or an effort to protect against the future — that is, to ensure that whatever is to come resembles the powers of the past. If the concern were really about access, rather than taste, privilege, auteurism and connoisseurship, the people lamenting FilmStruck might be advocating for greater funding to film libraries and archives and more experimental models of open access and public engagement. What we need is not a deep introduction to narrow “fundamentals” but a more expansive and inclusive understanding of what film is, can be and has been.” Wowza!

Stuff I'm Reading


Meanwhile, no one watches film anyways, they’re too busy watching squishies and ToysReview:

While not enough people watched FilmStruck to save it, The WSJ reports on Squish Toys, and how one Holly Woodruff’s got a 49-minute video of her hands squeezing-and-releasing more than 700 squishies one-by-one that has been watched 3.1 million times. “Most fans—some of them adults—watch the videos to relax, Ms. Woodruff says.”
And nearly everyone covered the BBC’s story about seven year-old Ryan ToysReview pulling in $22-Million a year with a golly gee-whiz attitude. But what this really shows is that nearly 14 years after YouTube was founded, the world just wants to watch itself make funny videos, and has little time for what Hollywood wants to make. Seriously, YouTube has spent billions trying to get people to watch “professional” content, and people like Katzenberg are raising billions more to make “high end-quality” content, when clearly the internet has spoken, and it thinks UGC is just fine.
But if they are, they might as well just use Kanopy. Because as IndieWire reports, A24 just made their entire catalogue available for free on Kanopy – to anyone with a library card. Why are people even bothering to launch other services?
Why is gaming so absent from Film Fests? That’s what I wondered, as I read this brilliant editorial about the artistry of Red Dead Redemption 2 in the NYT from Peter Suderman of Seems to me that all of the “cutting edge” programs at places like Sundance, Tribeca, etc. spend a lot of time pushing VR and other interactive platforms and not gaming; yet games are so clearly the only form of current and future narrative art that are both currently working and popular. The bias against games as narrative art continues.
Release windows are shrinking? Not so fast argues Colin Dixon in nScreenMedia, who gives three good reasons PVOD (premium VOD) will fail: Disney won’t do it; box office is increasing; and theater owners still don’t see anything to gain.
Some asshole wants to shut down the Quad for noise disturbances, reports the NYT, but thank God its owner, Charles Cohen, just bought Landmark and can make his noise wherever he wants now. Seriously though, who are these fucks moving to NYC and ruining our lives when existing landmarks mess with their condo-living?
Branded Content
Marriott is going to theaters reports DigiDay. Marriott took it’s StoryBooked series to 30 theaters in 28 markets, aired it as an hour-long broadcast on FYI, and then again on A&E before making it available for streaming online through April, 2019. Multi-platorm plays are getting bigger, because only bigger breaks through the noise.
And AdWeek explains why, in a pretty good article on how brands are taking control of their narratives by making more content, longer content, and controlling how it gets to consumers.
What’s next, the article asks in summary: “Best of all, brands can target who they want to see this content across whatever platforms they choose. They don’t need to pay to shout this content across a major TV network but can instead seek out the market that wants this content how and when they want it.
It’s a new era for content. The only question now is how far will brands go. Could we be watching the Patagonia Network on our televisions soon?”
Well, given how poorly OTT channels are working out, as explained above, maybe not. But brands might have a better go at it than traditional film companies.
Maybe that’s because Branded Content makes people happy. So says RealEyes and Turner in a study they released that was picked up by AdAge. But if you read this, you may vomit. I did.
Why is this Newsletter so Late?

Sorry I didn’t post for a few weeks, but I was producing a movie, which kept me too busy to write a newsletter. That's why today's news is a catch-up on things that recently ran in the press. But this gives me a chance to make a shameless plug for the great press we got in Deadline for our cast on The Outside Story, by Casimir Nozkowski, which just wrapped shooting in Brooklyn. Can’t wait to bring this film to you next year.
Copyright © 2018 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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