DVD Distribution Is Dead

Do you remember retail DVD distribution? Do you remember walking into a video store and renting a video?

Those days are gone. The demise of retail DVD distribution means that you can no longer depend on some video rental chain to buy 5,000 copies of your DVD. The advent of the internet and the rise of internet movie distribution means that your movie is no longer a physical product. It is data.

Yet despite these changes, filmmakers still talk about the difference between traditional movie distribution and self-distribution.

I have news for you. If you mention the words self-distribution around me, I will whip you with a wet noodle. (Actually, I won’t really do that. I just used “wet noodle” to get your attention.) But the reason I am adimant about removing “self-distribution” from our filmmaking vernacular is because there is no such thing as traditional internet distribution.

This is because internet movie distribution is too new to be traditional!

But most filmmakers don’t get it. Whenever I give talks about internet distribution for filmmakers, someone invariably shares a story about some traditional distributor turned VOD aggregator, promising to get their title into iTunes and Amazon and Hulu.

And I’m like: “So what? Any filmmaker can access those platforms. Why do you need a middle-man?”

Blank stares.

Aside from getting your movie is on iTunes, Hulu and Amazon –  unless your “traditional distributor” is conducting verifiable and measurable marketing, there is no additional value.

But before you run into the streets naked with excitement (or fear), keep this in mind. Just because you can access the popular movie marketplaces and fire the middle-man does not necessarily mean you are guaranteed success. Think about it – there is a reason the movie studios spend millions of dollars marketing studio produced features.

The problem is, most indie filmmakers do not have millions to spend on marketing. This changes the game.

Here are THREE essential filmmaking skills you need to master:

1. Become an Internet marketer: Or team up with someone who is. Why? Because there will come a time when there is no delineation between the Internet and your television. Or your mobile device. As a result of these changes, you will need to drive targeted Internet traffic to your desired point of sale and convert these visitors into customers.

2. Find Out How To Crowdfund: Running a successful crowdfunding campaign requires social networking, real-world networking and Internet marketing. Aside from raising money, your goal is to test all your movie concepts before you dive in both feet first. And if successful, your goal is to snowball your supporters into one giant mailing list so you can gain their support for your next projects.

3. Your Audience Is Your Business: Marketing nerds have a saying, “The money is in your list.” It is now no different to filmmakers. Your ongoing goal is to create work that encourages people to sign up for your mailing list and become a fan of you and your movies, for life. Then with each project, your ongoing goal is to continually grow your list.

For some filmmakers, mastering internet movie distribution is easier said than done. I get that.

If you are like most filmmakers, you have probably spent your whole filmmaking career imagining that your movie would get “discovered” and you would be propelled into instant fame and fortune. And while I would never discourage you from thinking BIG… It is equally important to have a pragmatic approach to your work, complete with manageable expectations.

But do me a favor – despite any emotion you have towards distribution, please stop using the words “self-distribution.” It makes you sound old. Instead, repeat this mantra: “If my filmmaking success is meant to be, it’s up to me.”

And if you like this stuff, you can always grab your copy of the indie producer’s guide to digital distribution.


  1. james says

    “Do you remember walking into a video store and renting a video (DVD) ?”
    um yeah, this morning.

  2. Dickus Dell says

    Physical media is by no means “dead”. If people aren’t buying DVD’s for cheap, they’re buying Blu-Ray discs. Maybe not in a video store, but online. Or renting them, from Red Box or Netflix. Too much is made of downloaded content. It’s a growing market, but it’s only supplemental… And that’s coming from two years on from when this article was published.

  3. says

    While I agree that the DVD market is tiny compared to what it was and it is still shrinking, DVD distribution is still the biggest earner for indie movies that don’t make it to theatrical.

    If you’ve ever released online, either yourself or through an aggregator, you’ll know how little that generates unless you’re one of the ‘big films’ out there at the time. It’s a slow and sometimes not very steady income that won’t recoup your costs unless you made your film for next to nothing. DVD distributors on the other hand, can often get your film onto the supermarket shelves and shift a hell of a lot in the first week or two of release and then you concentrate on online after that.

    Those initial DVD sales increase your brand recognition and often cover much of your budget. Anyone who thinks that getting your film on the major supermarket shelves isn’t worth doing is just wrong.

    DVD will definitely die out…and soon…but it’s not dead yet…and until the general public at large find a way of ‘impulse buying’ films in a way they trust…DVD will continue to do OK. If you look into it, most people have tried a few platforms for moving away from DVD… iTunes, Netflix and other online sources, but not many people are as happy to do that as they were to pay a tenner for a film on DVD in Tesco. Whatever the future of film distribution for home viewing is going to be, it’s not all sorted yet.

  4. trevor spence says

    What is replacing dvd distribution? Why did it collapse?
    I thought dvd and blu ray was where it was happening.

  5. says

    Hi Victor,

    Video stores are no longer the only way to get DVDs out there. If you are really interested in some of the new methods, read all the articles on film distribution on this site. You can also grab a copy of my program found here:

  6. Victor Lynne says

    Dear Sir or Madame:

    I am planning to make a video featuring myself (an 83-year-old boxer) and an exercise program for senior citizens. The action would be recorded on a regular casette camera and reroduced on DVDs for distribution to video stores..

    But the details of just ho to do this is not clear at this time, since I have no experience. in film making and distributiion.. Would you be interested in helping me get started? If you’re not interested, the courtesy of a reply would be appreciated.


    Victor Lynne.

    Victor Lynne

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