In 2017, the New York Public Library (NYPL) struck a deal with Kanopy allowing any library cardholder to use the streaming service for free. That gave library users access to 30,000 movies including recent hits like Moonlight, Lady Bird and The Florida Project. It also offered access to harder to find movies which were not available on other streaming platforms, as the collection was focused on documentaries, classics and independent films.
If it seems odd that a library would offer a movie streaming subscription, it's because Kanopy was aimed at the educational sector, and got its start selling DVDs to college libraries. It gradually expanded into streaming and partnered with a number of public libraries.
Although the service is free for users, it is paid for by the library. Rather than the flat subscription fee charged by services like Netflix, Kanopy works by charging libraries a license fee of around $150 for each title, triggered by just three viewings.
These fees can eat up a considerable portion of a library's budget. Stanford library chose to drop its partnership with Kanopy last year, saying the change was made "as a result of the increasing cost of the service, which have escalated significantly in the past year and is no longer sustainable."
It seems the same issue has led the NYPL to stop offering the streaming service. The library released a statement saying that it would no longer offer free access to Kanopy. Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library are also ending their partnership with the streaming service.
"The Library made this decision after a careful and thorough examination of its streaming offerings and priorities," the NYPL said. "We believe the cost of Kanopy makes it unsustainable for the Library, and that our resources are better utilized purchasing more in-demand collections such as books and e-books."
Update 6/25/19 10:48AM ET: This post has been updated to clarify Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library will also end their partnership with Kanopy, in addition to the NYPL.