By Aljean Harmetz | Thompson on Hollywood December 22, 2011 at 1:59PM
Acorn Media, well known for its DVDs of classic British television programs, has carved out a new presence for itself as the first streaming service that specializes in British television.
Acorn TV, which was launched last July, recently added “Playing Shakespeare” -- a series of master classes by the co-founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company in which Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Ben Kingsley and other top-notch British actors play scenes and deconstruct Shakespeare’s language line by line -- to the list of British series it has begun streaming in the United States.
Acorn has always been heavy on mystery series and is currently streaming “Above Suspicion,” the newest series from Lynda La Plante who created “Prime Suspect,” and “Man in a Suitcase,” a 1968 Cold War thriller about an honest spy accused of treason. But it is also streaming the classic PBS miniseries, “The Forsyte Saga,” and “Doc Martin,” in which a London doctor who can’t stand the sight of blood collides with a village of eccentrics in Cornwall.
For an annual fee of $24.99 Acorn TV provides full seasons of 10 classic and contemporary British series to watch online, on iPhones, iPads, Apple TV and Google TV. Each season is available for five weeks, with content rotating weekly. And the first episode of each series is available for free.
However, Acorn has not put all its eggs in its streaming basket. Coinciding with the feature film adaptation "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth, Acorn is re-releasing John le Carré’s classic Cold War spy drama starring Sir Alec Guinness. Among the new DVDs it will release in January are “The Windsors: From George to Kate,” Agatha Christie’s "Poirot, Series 1 and 2,” and “Bill Moyers: Amazing Grace.”