I recently posted on our Facebook page a note about the fact that one has to be mindful about when to initiate a NETFLIX VOD window. Sheri Candler asked to me blog about it. I do everything she says.
We have heard consistently from Cable VOD operators and aggregators and Broadcasters such as Showtime that the Netflix VOD window is considered a cannibalizer of revenue for Cable VOD and TV so know that before licensing rights and resolving windows. When it comes to Netflix they have gotten so successful that they are a more selective platform than Amazon. Amazon wants has recently passed the 80,000 titles mark and is racing to aggregate as many as possible. Netflix has over 100,000 titles on DVD and over 17,000 titles on its streaming service but is now getting more and more selective. Netflix SVOD rights are sold for a flat fee, at least for now. To get onto Netflix, first one has to get on their radar and into their system, and then get that demand up in their queue system to get a good fee offer. One has to then resolve everything else before risking inadvertently killing any chances of a Broadcast sale or Cable VOD distribution. However, depending on the film, you may make more money from Netflix than by selling to let’s say EPIX which will want your Netflix SVOD rights anyway. And you may make more money distributing directly then doing a small Broadcast deal or going with a distributor or aggregator that will take all your digital rights anyway. Though it should be noted most filmmakers cannot get to Netflix directly.
As with anything in film distribution, there is no one rule that applies to all films. This is a case-by-case business. Some films are big enough that one can stagger windows and monetize them all. Some films are better served by being available on all platforms at once or close to it. Some films lend themselves more to rental or ad-supported free-on-demand and others can really generate the transactional (pay per download) business.
The point of this little missive though is just to note the conflation of TV and the Internet is happening. Google TV is here and retailers, Television and device manufacturers, cable operators and telcos are all competing to aggregate and offer as much content as possible. Even print media companies are following suit wanting channels of content on their websites. And soon enough it will be less a discussion of rights and more a discussion of PAYMENT METHODS or MONETIZING METHODS and I think that will always depend on the film and its demographic targets. The options will always be: 1. Ad-Supported / Free on Demand, 2. Subscription 3. Pay Per View 4. Download to Rent, and / or 5. Download to Own. And now instead of focusing on packaged media the focus is is on whether one can play content back on as many devices as one wants and that aspect related to all the various payment methods options. The content providing industries are all racing to aggregate as much content as they can and for it to be playable across as many devices as possible and payment methods vary so far depending on service and distributor choices. Hulu (a platform backed by studios and that was once only ad-supported is now beta testing its Netflix imitation subscription model).
Brands will attract customers just like they always did when video stores were king and just like when you choose which cell phone provider to use or whom to get your Internet connection through, assuming you live in an area with choice.
The other day on a Digital Hollywood Conference panel, I learned a stat from Erik Opeka of New Video: iTunes has 130,000,000 credit cards on file. Some of you are thinking right now, “I’m in the wrong business”.
Orly Ravid October 21st, 2010
Unfortunately, a great number of key digital platforms must be accessed through the use of an aggregator. Of course there are always exceptions, but the general rule is that to get your films onto Cable VOD, iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Sony Playstation and other device oriented options and retailer digital platforms , you will have to go through an aggregator or a distributor. We either directly or via partners offer both a commission or a flat fee option (range depends on platforms).
However, you can get onto Amazon directly. Also, you can access DIY oriented ones such as Mubi, Fans of Film and other platforms like them. To the best of our knowledge, more money is made on the key high trafficked platforms, if one can get on them.
Once again we remind you, MARKETING, MARKETING, MARKETING is key to your film’s success no matter what distribution outlet you use.
This concludes our series of tidbits for the time being. As always, if you have questions or need guidance to figure out your film’s distribution path, we would love to hear from you. No rights taken.
Orly Ravid August 27th, 2010
From a revenue-generating point of view, at present, those who deal in the space will tell you that iTunes is the #1 platform; Hulu is working well for some but not for all; and that Netflix’s “Watch Now” is starting to show promise but one’s film needs to be on DVD with them too and be somewhat in demand. Some platforms are subscription based, some are transactional, and some are ad-tagged revenue-based. And sometimes a hybrid of the two not is only a doable solution but actually an ideal one, especially for smaller special-interest films.
Much of this information can be found within our Digital Distribution Guide, available to our members. For this week, you can gain access to the full Guide by contributing $35 to our IndieGoGo campaign.
Orly Ravid July 1st, 2010
The Film Collaborative was recently on a panel at the Los Angeles Film Festival as part of their SEIZE THE POWER SYMPOSIUM which focused on DIY & DIGITAL Distribution. This was the description of the panel we were on and that I moderated and will discuss below:
NEW DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION INITIATIVES
Leading digital distribution executives present new solutions for distribution
as they explain their business models and the opportunities they offer
filmmakers to reach audiences and bring in revenue for their films.
Erick Opeka, New Video
Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures
Orly Ravid, The Film Collaborative (TFC)
Scilla Andreen, IndieFlix
After the panel was over someone asked how he could decide which one of us to work with; he liked us all. It was clear to me that even though we had just finished an hour long panel at which we each presented our respective companies and then answered questions, it was not enough to make clear to everyone the way in which to relate to each company and how to make decisions about whom to work with in distribution.
Recently on Ted Hope’s blog
Jon Reiss and Ted Hope and many others including filmmakers discussed the relevance of panels and expert books and even more recently Jon Reiss wrote a blog titled “Coping with Symposium Workshop Brain Fry”. That is what I want to address here, specifically in relation to the panel I moderated and was on called “New Digital Initiatives”.
At the LAFF Panel all the companies discussed what they do and here’s some of that information below, and what we recommend a filmmaker do to make sense of information given at a panel.
Gravitas Ventures talked about its focus on Cable VOD and the fact that it works with Warner Brothers (WB) which (when WB takes a film) can lead to a film being available in up to as many as 50,000,000 homes via about 30 – 40 cable operators and up to 80,000,000 – 90,000,000 homes when one factors in digital. When WB does not take the film on Gravitas can at least get the film out to about up to 12,000,000 – 15,000,000 Cable VOD homes. Of course one in this circumstance has to realize that when WB is in the picture, there are two fees being taken as well as two companies being relied on to provide information and to pay. The other aspects to analyze are 1. the benefits of having a studio involved in VOD and Digital often leads to HIGHER revenues from Cable MSOs (Multi System Operators) and digital platforms and also MARKETING LEVERAGE. But, 2. the Studios are also glutted and not necessarily focusing on your film and you may get lost or inadvertently shafted (and I know it’s happened) so one has to have contractual commitments or protective clauses, and 3. They won’t let you keep digital rights usually, though maybe Netflix SVOD; and 4. accounting can be soft on the details. Gravitas does 2-year deals and about 350 -400 films per year and is the largest VOD aggregator at this time. Gravitas noted revenues per film ranging from as low as $5,000 – $250,000. A FILMMAKER must ADDRESS MARKETING and COSTS RECOUPMENT whether in dealing with Gravitas or any other Cable VOD & Digital Aggregator (e.g. TFC also works with Brainstorm Media & Fluent / Lions Gate), or any of the other studios who are or will be opening up to “independent product”.
The Film Collaborative’s entire purpose is to help sift through the information available at the time your film is ready or will be ready for release and help you resolve your COMPLETE DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY. Gravitas Ventures can get you the VOD and digital access you need but they don’t necessarily do much in the way of marketing so that will be more up to you to either have them commit to that effort or do it yourself (and perhaps in collaboration with us and our marketing partners). A marketing plus (+) though for Gravitas is that if WB gets behind your film, they can get iTunes and the Cable Operators to give your film a bigger marketing push. This can be very valuable.
New Video is a very well respected DVD distributor that is known for doing a great job, including on the marketing side, and for being very transparent, filmmaker friendly and very reasonable in its fees. It takes for example just 15% fee for digital distribution, and 20% for Cable VOD but again, like Gravitas, it works with Warner Brothers so that’s two fees there.. (but no different than many distributors who do their digital and VOD through Warner Brothers, such as Oscilloscope, Strand, Wolfe, I think Kino, etc.) Their encoding is all done in-house and all one has to do is supply an uncommpressed file) and it seems to be done cheaply (Gravitas who refers out to Fotokem I believe). New Video noted an “Online Management” service to help track your placement and revenues. New Video noted for digital revenue only that revenues range from a similar low as Gravitas did, $5,000 – $150,000 but I also know there have been times that New Video has generated over $250,000 in revenue for a film but that included DVD sales. It should also be noted that VOD is newer to New Video and also the company’s presented revenue range on the panel was regarding docs. It should also be noted that most films with Gravitas don’t get up to the high, and that high is more for the rare hits such as The Secret and Crips & Bloods. New Video notes the success of films that appeal to young men or tech culture (films such as Helvetica and Purple Violets were successful). And of course all the obvious factors help films success in distribution, names, the right genres, niche appeal, and theatrical release (especially if it goes well).
IndieFlix is a very filmmaker friendly and transparent option too and they don’t lock up your rights and as Scilla Andreen mentioned, they take a more HOLISTIC approach and do more grassroots outreach and public / community screening work for films. They give filmmakers a royalty of 70% (NET but modest and capped expenses if desired). They can do DVD releases and they can get you onto iTunes, Netflix and Hulu, all good platforms, Hulu being the least so but actually quite worthwhile for certain films and it can also simply help drive other transactions too. On the Cable VOD & Broadcast side Scilla noted that IndieFlix was providing content for Broadcast and Cable VOD. IndieFlix explained this to me after the panel about their handling of VOD: they do it “via Gravitas and New Video for now until we are able to deliver direct. Gravitas refers content to us and New Video will place content on our site. We all play together very well in the sandbox. I think the real strength is in the partners marketing powers. We do tell filmmakers so that if they choose to go direct they can. All have chosen to go through us since we work so closely with the filmmakers to market.” IndieFlix is also starting a “FILM FESTIVAL IN A BOX” initiative that seems cool. This is what they say about it: “Film Festival in a Box is a social gaming platform that connects people through movies. A game changer no pun intended and a completely out of the box form of distribution and audience building tool in a tiny little package. Film Festival in a Box is a game bridging on and off line communities and connecting people through movies. It’s another delivery platform and revenue stream for the filmmaker. It’s non-exclusive. It’s a game. It’s a social experience. It’s marketing. It incorporates brands in a meaningful way. It is audience building. It’s data collection. It directly connects the filmmaker with his/her audience. It’s more than a game.”
So all in all to answer the QUESTION asked at the PANEL about how do you CHOOSE between service providers and how to sift through the INFORMATION presented on PANELS. HERE’s HOW:
- Recognize that VOD is still 78% of the revenue in the digital space and if your film has Cable VOD potential (names, major fest awards, solid theatrical release, strong niche appeal, genre appeal) then one ought to find the most financially efficient and productive way to have Cable VOD distribution that takes into account the marketing required to drive awareness and transactions.
- Not only do the PERCENTAGE of FEES being taken and HOW MANY FEES are taken but knowing you are comparing right elements… some companies make take a smaller fee but also get less from the platforms or MSOs so do ALL THE MATH.
- Not all companies are right for all films so assessing special talents and interests at companies and experience in handling films that relate yours is key and get REFERENCES.
- Compare Financial terms of the deals on all fronts (including costs recoupment, Delivery / Encoding…)
- Look into your ability to split rights when / if in your best interest.
- Evaluate willingness to memorialize all verbal commitments and promises in writing.
- and again – MARKETING — who is doing what (and if not you, get it in writing).
— ALL THESE DETAILS MATTER — and where we, The Film Collaborative come in is what we note below about helping you know all your options and analyze and implement them AND of course we also offer direct digital distribution for either 15% fee or nominal flat fees (e.g. $500 – $1,200 depending) and we can get your films onto Cable VOD through our various partners (and we don’t take extra commissions for that); and we can get your film onto iTunes in the same way Distribber does and we’re also working with Distribber too (w/out charging an extra fee) and we are direct with many platforms (all the usual suspects) as listed on our site and the list keeps growing… We’ve very excited some new digital platform deals with two big retailers that we have not officially announced yet, stay tuned! We will be direct with some Cable MSOs (VOD) but that will take some more time. And we do have a MARKETING SERVICES menu and complete menu of marketing service options that we can service in-house and in tandem with our top-notch marketing service partners. TFC is committed to end-to-end distribution education and distribution solutions.
Our first written testimonial (we’ve had many oral ones) really fits into the subject of this blog entry:
“The Film Collaborative fills a void. In Indie distribution you can go out and hire a pricey consultant that seems to withhold information and contacts to lure filmmakers along with the proverbial distribution pot of gold, or you can attempt to wade through all the landfill that exists on the internet yourself (it’s all there but good luck!). This is where the Film Collaborative, come in. They have sifted through it all and presented in a transparent way so filmmakers can determine for themselves where their film sits and take action where it best makes sense.”
– Mark Hug, filmmaker of LOVERS IN A DANGEROUS TIME
That’s truly what we’re about, being a trusted and transparent informational resource and strategic partner / connector to all your distribution and marketing options so you can find and customize the best possible distribution solution for your film.
Orly Ravid June 27th, 2010
On Ted Hope’s website, there is a discussion brewing about the relevance and right pricing of panels and seminars and the degree to which filmmakers should be attentive to and responsible for the business side of their film’s release.
Film is a relatively new art form. It is the most expensive art medium in the world. My thinking is, if it’s your money it’s your decision. If it’s grant money, it’s really a non-issue. If investors are counting on their money back, it behooves you to either let them know up front what the realistic possibilities are, or commit yourself to supporting the return on their investment. TFC’s entire purpose and mission is to try to make up for the fact that the US does not have the same funding as Europe does that supports an industry of art film.
At Cannes I was invited to be part of the Cannes Producer’s Network networking breakfasts and through that I spoke to producers about The Film Collaborative. I have been and will continue to be invited to speak at panels and seminars and all of that industry stuff and seen as an “expert”. I think there’s good and bad that comes with all that. The good is that some great information is often shared, and often for free or for a lot less than one would pay for it if one had to reach out to each panelist individually. One makes connections one might not otherwise. The bad is that filmmakers sometimes think they now have the answers and that is not enough. AND, panels at festivals and markets are often put together by people who actually are not in the day-to-day world of distribution and/or sometimes festivals are swayed by other influences and panels are stacked with not-so-appropriate panelists. Sometimes panels are positioned as having all the information about a topic but are actually quite limited either because of time or the panel itself. The saying “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” can and does often apply. And in today’s new media world, intimate knowledge with the present space and all its ever-and-quickly-changing nuances is critical. It’s also important not to apply information that may not apply to your film.
The “expert” books are useful (Jon Reiss’ is one we’re fond of especially for docs that can be segmented and merchandized, and Scott Kirsner’s is good too for fan building, and of course Roberta Munroe’s for short films) but with regard to actual distribution details, books are quickly out-of-date for anything new media oriented or related to business opportunities. Whether one likes it or not, people handling lots of films tend to be ahead in knowing about distribution and marketing opportunities and the knowledge is more real and detailed and nuanced. I’m not advocating old world anything; I don’t even believe in rights licensing model but I do believe in the best distribution possible per film, and it’s different per film.
Lawyers love to charge by the hour or take a big commission for their “expertise” and I suggest that a lawyer who has no or little distribution background relating to your deal but doing a distribution contract will get you a great air tight contract perhaps, but a crap distribution deal and a big fat waste of time and money and rights into the film. It’s not black and white of course, I’m just making a point. Every “expert” has a limited perspective to his/her experience and an agenda, and of course that includes me too. So think for yourself, cross-reference, and keep up-to-date, or designate someone on your side to. The digital space is truly changing weekly. The MSOs behind the Cable VOD space are not letting go of their turf any time soon, whilst Google makes its play, and all the Telcos make theirs… CinemaNow is going to be working its Digital Locker at Best Buy (digital) and Blockbuster (digital) and we shall see what happens with iTunes, Hulu and Netflix etc etc. On the DIY digital distribution front — I always await the numbers intel regarding platforms such as FansofFilm, and to see if Amazon VOD can ever generate business for the DIY releases — and for some, 4 and 5 figures of revenue is as much as they could have hoped for or expected, but some it’s not. The dilemma is really evaluating the numbers when a licensing option is an option because there is a certain leverage in the marketplace that bigger distributors still have over the DIY model and unless you’re a brand like Banksy whereby you already have a built in following, your film may have just enough commercial potential to need the distribution and marketing muscle of a company that may be able to do more than you can do via DIY. And yet, for many films, there is no such company that will step forward and a lot one can do on one’s own.
But back to panels – I will say this, I don’t think Ostrow & Company is an appropriate company to be introduced to filmmakers in a panel or industry networking setting (and they have been) because they ask for more than $10,000 up front (I think it’s up to $11,000 or $14,000 on average) and I don’t know of too much good they have done for anyone. Neither do any of my ‘industry’ peers.
My last thought before I sign off… This past week it was announced that TFC brokered a deal with IFC for Made in China. We did and we’re very proud of our service and always impressed by the impeccable taste and service to films at IFC (even though I cannot say I am in love with their $$ waterfall). We charge a fraction of what sales agents charge and we don’t recoup for fancy dinners in Cannes. I want a world in which sales agents are used for what they do best, getting filmmakers deals they cannot get themselves, there are buyers around the world and I do believe there is a place for a company to get films to market and do business that otherwise would not be done, especially for theatrical films or where good TV deals are still viable. I do however wish for filmmakers to save themselves and their investors the waste of big fees and expenses being recouped out of a deal one could have done directly.
Film is the most expensive art medium in the world, it’s also presently the most powerful. If you’ve already made a film, you might as well stay committed to its exhibition and your end of the bargain with investors and above all, your ability to keep making your work, for your audience.
At your service,
– O/R for TFC
Orly Ravid May 31st, 2010