The world of indie filmmaking is abuzz with folks wanting to sell a movie to Netflix. And this is for good reason. With over 30 million subscribers, getting your movie into the platform would represent exposure. As a result, many filmmakers have been leaving messages at my office like this:
I want to sell a movie to Netflix! I just want you to know that I don’t care about money. In fact, if I can’t sell a movie to Netflix, I’d be happy to put my movie on Netflix for free.
If you’re having similar thoughts, you may want to rethink a few things. While the opportunity for exposure feels enticing, accepting a silly deal doesn’t pay the bills or pay back your investors.
Sell a Movie to Netflix
Unlike many VOD platforms, the majority of Netflix deals still happen the traditional way. A filmmaker finds a distributor. The distributor negotiates a deal with Netflix. And then the filmmaker gets paid a licensing fee upfront. Think of Netflix the same way you think about HBO or Showtime.
If you decide to tackle Netflix distribution yourself, you’re going to jump through a series of hoops. To start, you must first get the attention of Netflix and get into their database. What’s in it for Netflix to pick up your movie? Will having your movie help them attract new subscribers?
How do you get into the Netflix database?
This is the secret sauce. Netflix decides what movies they want to acquire. Short of knowing somebody on the inside, you better have an awesome movie that appeals to a large segment of the Netflix subscriber base. It helps if you can drum up tons of publicity.
What does Netflix pay for film acquisitions?
If you are fortunate enough to get your title into the Netflix database, you still need a gazillion people to request your movie in their Netflix queue. This is called queue demand. And this metric will influence the actual amount of money Netflix will offer you. If you want to score a big deal, your movie better have a lot of demand.
Should You Try To Sell A Movie To Netflix?
Aside from getting your movie noticed, the deals may not pay. In response, some of my filmmaker friends argue that it is important to sell a movie to Netflix merely for the exposure. To that, I usually remind them that piracy is also good for exposure. And getting someone to bootleg your movie involves a lot less headaches.
Next Steps For Netflix Distribution
If you are still set on getting into Netflix, then you may consider reaching out to traditional distributors. Utilizing traditional channels may allow you to circumvent some of the requirements I mentioned earlier. And who knows? You might find a distributor able to negotiate an awesome deal.
Conversely, if you’re willing to go the distance, you can start the process by utilizing a filmmaker friendly VOD aggregator like Distribber. (Note: In full disclosure, I once ran operations at Distribber, and they still pay me to promote.)
In both instances, I would advise that you don’t hold your breath. Now that Netflix produces their own shows, getting in (and actually landing a satisfying licensing deal) may still prove challenging.
If you would like to explore other popular (and accessible) outlets for your movie, you might wanna focus on transactional platforms first like iTunes and Amazon and then drive targeted traffic to your point of sale.
While you’re at it, if you’d like more info on modern distribution tactics, check out the Independent Producer’s Guide To Digital Distribution.