Sneak Peek #3: Spotlight On Viewster
For the next volume of Selling Your Film, which comes out later this month, I recently had a virtual sit-down with Tilman Eberle, Head of Marketing and Communications at , a global provider of on-demand Internet streaming media headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.
Approximately how many art house / independent films does Viewster handle annually?
Tilman Eberle: Currently none, except for the festival. The platform specializes on serialized content (TV series, miniseries, prime web series). In the past, we had around 75% independent films in our portfolio, a vast majority of it arthouse.
Where do you acquire the rights from? Only sales agents? Only distributors? filmmakers? All three?
Eberle: Producers directly, sales agents, aggregators, TV networks–whoever holds the AVOD rights.
What types of films work well via Viewster?
Eberle: We prefer newer production with a high production value, a known/recognizable cast or director and content that has social media relevance, which means that it’s talked about in blogs and social media outlets and has followers/fans.
Genres: Comedy, Drama (including Korean Drama), Crime, Documentaries (series and films) and Japanese Anime. We can promote these titles best–they have a large and active niche audience that we can target very specifically. Besides that, there can be very diverse titles that get surfaced by the community. We are surprised day by day…
Please explain your business model and how widely films you handle are distributed (discuss platforms etc).
Eberle: Viewster offers ad-based free VOD, granting the content owner a fair revenue share. Distribution can be from worldwide to country-specific. However, Viewster’s focus is to get distribution rights for its European core markets.
Please describe any initiatives you have with regard to independent / art house cinema?
Eberle: Viewster just launched the first edition of its online film festival to which both aggregators and individual creators are invited. The high total prize money of US$100,000 is meant to give the creative community something back from the revenues that are earned with online distribution of professional content.
Other than that, Viewster is the ideal platform to distribute independent films because of its low entry barrier and fair sharing model. A separate track for commercial content licensing is in preparation and will be launched soon.
Can you please give some ranges of revenues and explain which types of films perform well vs. not as well?
Eberle: An individual title can generate significant monthly revenue. Our community-driven exploration platform ensures that titles that are deeper in the library also get surfaced. That’s why, besides catchy artwork and title, the relevance of the film for a certain niche makes the success via social activation.
Please explain any marketing you do and also what you recommend filmmakers do.
Eberle: Viewster’s marketing focuses on brand-building, advertising and social media promotion, mainly on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. PR is also used for brand-building. For individual filmmakers, community-building and social media marketing are very efficient ways to promote their film because you can reach out to a certain niche in a very targeted way.
What are some best practices that you think filmmakers should follow?
Eberle: Be your own marketing manager and do not rely on anyone else to do this for you. Create a catchy story around your oeuvre and pitch this to the right people at events, festivals and online on social media platforms. Be sure that you have good imagery when doing so. This sounds trivial but it’s shocking how bad these basics can be sometimes. If you want to reach out to younger audiences that turn themselves away from TV and cinema, and you still want to earn money, consider online distribution: there is more than YouTube and Netflix!
How is your service similar to other services, and how is it different?
Eberle: Viewster specializes in AVOD and focuses on the European market. This makes it distinct from Netflix and Hulu, respectively. In contrast to YouTube, Viewster has no piracy and only professional, curated content.
Let’s move on to your quarterly film festival. It’s called the , and you finished the first edition earlier this spring. Submissions with the theme of “When Life Gives You Lemons…” were juried by Ted Hope and two other jury members and narrowed down to 83 films. Those 83 were then put up online for people to vote for them, and they competed for a total of $100K in prize money with a first, second and third prize. Very exciting.
The first thing that stuck me is the mix of shorts and features…this is not unusual for a film festival in general, but since we are talking about a prize and ranking, I found it interesting that you didn’t list the running times on the main page…is this because you didn’t want to give away which ones would take longer to watch, as that might create an unfair advantage to the shorter films?
Eberle: The winners of our first edition were a series, a feature and a short, despite the fact that 2/3 of the entries were short format. The variety of formats played absolutely fine and we’ll keep this concept also for the second edition.
And you have your second set for this June. Are you going to have a prize for each quarterly installment, or is this just for the first one?
Eberle: Yes, there will be the same prize for each quarterly edition.
Do you have a permanent jury or do you plan to rotate inguest curators?
How else will each edition differ?
Eberle: The editions will differ both in terms of format and theme. The formats for subsequent editions will be: shorts and series pilots. And the theme for this next edition is “Relationship Status: It’s Complicated.”
Will this festival always be free or are you considering implementing a payment model in the future? Or an ad-based one?
Eberle: It will always be free for the candidates and the audience.
How do you come up with your themes, and what are some themes you are considering for future installments? What themes would not be appropriate here?
Eberle: The themes need to fit with our overall program and are selected based on the activation potential of creators and community.
How do you think these quarterly film festivals will play out as a potential distribution strategy in the EU? For example, what happens to the films after the festival is over—will they go up somewhere where people can still rent/purchase? What kind of films will persevere? And do you think it could be monetarily advantageous for the filmmakers?
Eberle: With the first edition, we have already established many great connections with creators and will offer the participants the option to distribute their content commercially on Viewster. This looks very promising, as AVOD is becoming a truly lucrative distribution form.
What could the windows look like for other online platforms if a film makes its launch on Viewster? Would you so something like Vimeo On Demand, where there is an exclusivity window?
Eberle: Our festival is not exclusive and AVOD.
Lastly, please provide information filmmakers should have in order to get their films on to Viewster.
Eberle: If your film matches the theme of “Relationship Status: It’s Complicated!” then submit it to the second edition of the Viewster Online Film Fest (#VOFF) by May 22, 2014. You get your film exposed to an audience of one million people and to independent producer Ted Hope in the Jury. And you have the chance to win a lot of money. Also be sure to check in for future editions of the .
Those filmmaker who wish to enter the Viewster library and commercial distribution for individual titles should stay tuned—we’ll have a separate track open for submissions in the near future.
Orly Ravid May 12th, 2014