Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Rooting for Filmstruck and Imzy
Time marches on, and new services and platforms are launching every day to replace the current ones. I'm rarely an early adopter, but there are two new services that have gotten my attention in a big way, and I'm getting pretty excited for.
The first is Filmstruck, a new streaming service from Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection, offering titles from both libraries. That means all the current Criterion titles will be leaving Hulu, and thank goodness. The Hulu interface never functioned very well, and I depended on the Criterion site to actually navigate their offerings. The Criterion titles being one of the only reasons that I subscribed to Hulu Plus to begin with, this will probably mean I can leave the whole service behind. The catch is that Turner will be implementing a tiered system, so many titles will only be available on a "Premium" channel. However, depending on what they've offering, that could still be well worth the money. They've promised titles from "Janus Films, Flicker Alley, Icarus, Kino, Milestone and Zeitgeist," among others. And supplementary material.
More specifics, like pricing and regional availability are yet to come, but Filmstruck looks like a cinephile's dream. It's ad free, aimed at more discerning viewers, and will be run by the same folks who have kept TCM a bastion of sanity on cable television. I was constantly watching TCM for the few years that it was available to me, and I'd love to have access to all that older Hollywood content again. Having the Criterions on Hulu was certainly a good thing, but I always felt that the films weren't well served by the platform. Partnering with TCM looks like a much better fit culturally. And while the audience for Filmstruck will be more limited, I don't see many competitors. There's Mubi, which also specializes in foreign and independent film, but they only offer thirty curated titles at a time and lean toward more contemporary programming. Fandor has a bigger, more stable selection, but is similarly aimed at the die-hards and can be a little alienating.
The danger will be that the programming will be too niche for Filmstruck to attract enough subscribers to sustain itself. Also, there's probably going to be less content offered than I'm hoping for. TCM will certainly take pains to avoid cannibalizing the audience for its cable channel, and I suspect that many of the usual licensors of its most popular content won't be too keen on having their content available for streaming on Filmstruck when most of them are planning their own rival streaming services that need all the titles they can get. Turner only owns the older Warner Bros and MGM movies outright, remember, and everything else comes from other studios. Still, I'd pay for a Criterion-centric service on its own, and there are plenty of other fans like me out there. Filmstruck officially launches in the fall of 2016 and I can't wait.
Now on to Imzy, which is a new link aggregation site that aims to be the new Reddit, except Reddit with more moderation and an emphasis on a "positive" culture. It's currently in beta, invitation only, and being run by former Reddit executive Dan McComas. Now if you've read previous posts on this blog, you know that I'm an active Redditor. I really enjoy certain parts of the site, mostly the support communities and the IAMA Q&A sessions. However, it's been getting harder and harder to ignore what are essentially hate groups that have been allowed to flourish on the site, and occasionally spill over into other communities. There was a big kerfuffle last year that resulted in the banning of a few openly racist and harassment-oriented subreddits, but plenty of sketchy material remains. As a thirty-something woman, it's especially hostile territory on certain topics like politics, social activism, and gender relations.
Frankly, Imzy sounds like a great response to the aggressively bro-centric Reddit culture. However, as with all services that are built around user-generated content and interactions, it's hard to predict how the culture is going to develop. Will Reddit end up looking like the female-dominated Tumblr and Pinterest? Will we essentially have a Reddit clone with the more obnoxious elements removed? Will it end up being adopted by a diverse collection of niche interests, creating a hodgepodge of different flavored spaces? Or will everyone just ignore it? Hard to say. However, what's clear is that Imzy is going to be considerably more work than Reddit if it's going to remain a positive and inclusive environment. Some less savory internet users take that kind of description as a challenge.
Personally, I'm still out looking for the next great movie discussion site - Letterboxd just isn't what I'm looking for - and I'm hopeful it could be on Imzy. It's probably wishful thinking, since Reddit's film and television related communities have been pretty disappointing. However, from personal experience I know I'd be more willing to participate and contribute in a friendlier, more diverse environment. Maybe Imzy could be the right place to foster a good community of film nerds that can actually carry on a conversation with a good amount of humor. We'll never know until we try, won't we?