The Emmy nomination of “Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain, Poirot’s Last Case” was not simply an odd surprise. It was the first Primetime Emmy nomination for a niche streaming service. Netflix (“House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black” and now “Bloodline” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Amazon (“Transparent”) are the blue whales of internet streaming. Acorn TV, which submitted “Poirot” for an Emmy, is a little fish. But little fish can swim fast, and Acorn may well be the harbinger of a future full of successful niche streaming services as viewers cut their cable cords and move online.
Acorn TV, with its vast supply of classic and new British mysteries available for a subscription fee of $4.99 a month, proves that a narrowly focused streaming services can compete. Until 2012, Acorn Media, now owned by RLJ Entertainment, was a distributor of British mysteries on DVD. Acorn took the leap into production when ITV, Britain’s commercial public television station, cancelled “Foyle’s War,” an iconic mystery set during World War II, after seven seasons. Acorn, which had DVD rights to “Foyle,” bought all rights and financed an 8th season, in which Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle faces a Cold War set in a postwar Britain. About the same time, it purchased a 64% interest in Agatha Christie’s literary estate. Equally important, Acorn transformed itself from the biggest UK distributor of mysteries on DVD to the first streaming service in North America that focused on British TV. Its subscriber base includes both mystery and British drama fans.
Acorn had tried for three other 2015 Emmy nominations – “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” for David Suchet who has played Poirot in 70 Poirot stories and for Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle; and “Foyle’s War” as “Outstanding Drama Series.”
Although the curtain has now come down on Hercule Poirot, September 3 will bring Acorn’s US premiere of another set of Agatha Christie detectives, the married team of Tommy and Tuppence, in the BBC’s “Partners in Crime,” available on Acorn TV and a variety of devices.