Much has been written recently on the collapsing ontologies of television – a topic well covered by Amanda Lotz’s article. And yet, within this increasingly nebulous landscape, there still remain clear markers of division between what we might call “television” and what we might call “cinema.” Following Lotz’s anecdote about how “‘watching television’ became acceptable to those who previously denigrated the device once it could be used to screen the works of master filmmakers” (52), I wish to briefly examine the introduction of the streaming service FilmStruck to elucidate the still tangible distinction between the two forms in the streaming age.
Launched late last year, the streaming service FilmStruck, as a joint venture between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection, establishes itself as a streaming service “for film lovers, by film lovers.” In the crowded landscape of streaming services dominated by Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, FilmStruck is attempting to draw itself along lines of aesthetic and ontological distinction. While certainly not the first cinematically-minded streaming service (MUBI and Fandor were first), FilmStruck’s brand-name recognition between both TCM and Criterion works to establish itself as a major player in the already crowded streaming landscape. The difference being, of course, that FilmStruck is a service for Films (capital F), and not the continually redefined video content of a Netflix Original.
Clearly, our contemporary media landscape is not quite ready to shed the previous ontological divisions of media forms, even as we edge closer to a type of convergence. The question for me is, does the existence of FilmStruck suggest the continuation of formal division, or is it simply an attempt to stave off the inevitable singularity?