New York City’s Public Libraries to End Film Streaming Through Kanopy

Public library cardholders in New York City will no longer have access to tens of thousands of movies through Kanopy as of July 1, when the New York, Brooklyn and Queens public libraries end their partnerships with the streaming service because of the cost, the libraries said Monday.

The San Francisco-based platform, which notified library cardholders by email on Monday, offers well-known feature films, like “Lady Bird” and “Moonlight,” as well as classic movies, documentaries and foreign-language films not always available on other services.

In a statement, the New York Public Library said, “We believe the cost of Kanopy makes it unsustainable,” adding that it would use its resources to purchase “more in-demand collections such as books and e-books.” The Brooklyn and Queens libraries also cited what they said were Kanopy’s rising costs in dropping the service.

About 25,000 people with New York Public Library cards — about 1 percent of the library’s 2 million cardholders — used the service in the past year. The New York library — with branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island — and the Brooklyn Public Library first offered Kanopy in August 2017, and the Queens Library followed several months later.

The email from Kanopy said that, although the company was “disappointed by this decision, we understand that New York City’s libraries’ current priorities lie with other programs that also advance their mission.”

“We have witnessed incredible growth in user demand at these libraries over the past couple years,” a Kanopy spokesperson, Lisa Kovitz, said in an email responding to questions.

Because the libraries pay about $2 per movie “play” — watching at least 30 seconds of a film constitutes a play — a growing number of cardholders using the service for free increases costs for the library. And though Kanopy said it does have capped pricing options, the New York Public Library said the cap it was offered was too high.

Film viewers expressed their unhappiness on Twitter, with some taking aim at the libraries and others at Kanopy.

Other libraries have made similar complaints about pricing. Stanford University’s libraries in December 2018 said they would limit access to Kanopy’s films, citing costs that had “escalated significantly” and expectations that the service's price tag at the university would double in 2019. The university also mentioned Kanopy’s pay-per-view model.

The Queens library still offers free video streaming and DVDs through Overdrive, according to a library spokesperson. The New York library offers no streaming alternative, but said it is exploring other options. The library still offers its Culture Pass program, which gives cardholders free access to 33 cultural institutions in the city.

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