In the world of indie filmmaking, it sure seems like every filmmaker wants to find out how to sell a movie to Netflix. In fact, it sure seems like NetFlix has become the holy grail.
And rightly so. For many filmmakers, being able to sell a movie to Netflix has become a rite of passage. And with over 30 million subscribers, getting your movie into the platform would represent exposure.
In fact, 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
After working with several filmmakers on their distribution strategy, I really DO NOT think NetFlix offers indie filmmakers the most viable option for distribution. For starters, in order to get your movie into Netflix, you must first get into their database.
How do you get into the NetFlix database?
This is the secret sauce. Netflix decides what movies get into their database. And short of knowing somebody on the inside, there isn’t much you can do to change this. NetFlix is very discriminatory about what movies get into their database. So you better have an awesome movie that appeals to a large segment of the Netflix subscriber base.
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.
For some filmmakers, I have heard numbers around the $1,300 range. (I wish I was kidding.) From a business perspective, this model allows NetFlix to predict demand and also acquire movies for minimal dollars.
Should You Try To Sell A Movie To NetFlix?
While it may be cool to have your movie available in NetFlix, the unappetizing deals they offer are just hard to stomach. Some of my filmmaker friends argue that getting into NetFlix is good because having your movie there will promote word of mouth.
To that, I usually respond that piracy is also good for word of mouth. And getting someone to bootleg your movie involves a lot less headaches.
If you are still set on getting into Netflix, then you may want to talk with traditional distributors. Utilizing traditional channels may then allow you to circumvent some of the requirements I mentioned earlier.
If you’re still set on Netflix, you can always attempt to submit via an upfront payment VOD aggregator like Distribber (note: I once ran operations there, and they still pay me to promote). But don’t hold your breath. Now that Netflix is producing their own shows, getting in (and actually making money) may still prove challenging.
If you would like to explore more accessible outlets for your movie, you might wanna focus on transactional platforms (like iTunes and Amazon) and then drive targeted traffic to your point of sale.
Check out the Independent Producer’s Guide To Digital Distribution to find out more.