Thoughts On Distribber (Video On Demand Aggregator)

A few years back, I served as the director of operations for Distribber. At the time, Distribber was a wholly owned subsidiary of Indiegogo.

For those of you not familiar with the service, Distribber is a Video On Demand aggregator with a mission to help filmmakers get their movies seen and selling in popular marketplaces. And unlike traditional film distributors, Distribber operates on an upfront payment model, without locking you into a long term agreement.

For a little context on why I love the service, it is important to understand the past. Prior to video on demand, and in order to reach the marketplace, filmmakers HAD to go through a distributor. This meant that distributors had all the power. You either agreed to their terms or your didn’t reach the marketplace.  As a result, many filmmakers agreed to crappy deals.

Given the demise in DVD distribution, filmmakers are now experiencing a paradigm shift. We are entering a world where all roads lead to video on demand. And unlike the old days, filmmakers do not have to take unfavorable deals to reach these marketplaces.

This is where Distribber helps. For an upfront fee and nothing off the back end, filmmakers can get their movies into the marketplace. And unlike traditional distributors, Distribber does not lock you into some long-term, exclusive agreement. With this transparent model, Distribber is very filmmaker friendly.

This means you:

1. Choose your preferred platforms and pay for access.

2. Distribber then works to get your movie into the platform.

If Distribber is  not successful in getting your movie into the selected platform, Distribber refunds your money – minus a processing fee.

[Disclosure: We are a referral partner for Distribber. This means we get paid to advertise and promote. So please conduct your own due diligence prior to making any purchase both here and everywhere on earth.]

I first heard about Distribber years ago when I was trying to help my filmmaker clients get their titles onto iTunes. At the time, I was so enamored by the company that I enthusiastically applied to become a referral partner. And after working successfully with several clients, one thing led to another. And I was hired by Distribber as the director of operations.

Suffice it to say, I know Distribber very well and have stayed friendly with the founder, staff and the new owners.

DistribberThoughts On Distribber

Distribber is run by Nick Soares and his team at DiGi Worldwide. They actually purchased Distribber from Indiegogo.

After the acquisition, Distribber was updated to include partnerships with Redbox, Redbox Instant, Walmart, VuDu, Google Play and a few others. And from what the management reports, Distribber also has plans to expand to new territories including UK, Russia, South America and China.

Distribber also has enhanced the technology a bit.  Here is a snapshot of their new reporting tools:

Distribber_Reports

Distribber has advanced its technology and platform by adding new tools that include an affiliate program and a revenue-reporting tool. With these new distribution partnerships and capabilities, combined with the ability to retain 100 percent of the films’ revenue, filmmakers have more viability in the marketplace for their films.

We acquired Distribber simply because it completed our robust game plan. Allowing filmmakers to receive every option imaginable from funding to distribution, while maximizing their potential to not only return their investment but to actually make a living producing movies.”  Nick Soares CEO

About Distribber

Distribber1Distribber was created to help rights holders maximize the payback from their work and investment.

More specifically, Distribber was conceived as a solution to several persistent complaints from filmmakers and other creative rights holders about distributors in general and aggregators in particular.

In other words, the goal of Distribber is to put the power of a large distributor in the filmmakers hands. To find out more about the Distribber service offering, follow this link.

And if you have questions, please feel free to add them to the comments below.

VOD Submission Prep

As a filmmaker, getting your movie into the various VOD marketplaces takes way longer than it should. The reason for this is simple. Every platform including iTunes, Amazon, NetFlix, Hulu and The Watchbox and Chill all want great content.

The delivery standards required by some of these platforms are so high, that if even one frame is messed up, your title will be rejected! This is why video aggregators work with amazing encoders. With a reputable encoding company, the encoders will do their best to fix any hiccups in your source. In some cases the encoders are successful. In many cases they are not.

In the event your title fails QC, your source (usually a portable hard drive) will be returned to the filmmaker in hopes of getting things fixed. This obviously delays the process significantly.

So my advice for VOD submission is this: Follow the specs provided by the aggregator. This will save you time and potentially money.  And if you are asked to deliver your title via Hard Drive, the one that most encoders endorse is the LaCie Rugged All-Terrain Hard Drive.

Three Steps For Netflix Distribution

UPDATE: You may want to read this article about Netflix Distribution

Many indie filmmakers are interested in finding out how to distribute their titles on Netflix. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to provide some details and save you headaches.

Step 1 – Verify The Netflix Database
Netflix has a proprietary, systematic approach for scouting and selecting titles for their database. And unless your title is selected for the Netflix database, Netflix will not make an offer for it. This is a circular requirement. If your title is not listed, there is not a whole lot you can do to change this.

Step 2 – Increase Queue Demand
If your title is listed in the database, the next step is increasing the “queue demand” so that the Netflix algorithm can determine the value of your title. To increase Queue Demand, you will need to organize a mini campaign that involves getting friends and your social network followers to add the film to their Netflix queue.

Step 3 – Get An Offer
Assuming your title is included in the database and you are able to increase “queue demand” then a 3rd party or aggregator (like Distribber) would approach Netflix for an offer. At this point you will either get an offer that makes sense for your movie or they will pass on your title.

Keep in mind that these offers can sometimes be much lower than anticipated – so it is important to manage your expectations.

While I think Netflix is a popular platform, some filmmakers will not want to go through the process. If this describes you, it might behoove you to check out Hulu, iTunes and Amazon as great alternatives. My guide to VOD distribution might help.

How To Prep Your Film For VOD

In the past, I was the Director of Operations for a company called Distribber. For those of you who don’t know, Distribber is a VOD aggregator. (And in full disclosure, they pay me to promote.)

During my time there, I learned that each video on demand platform is focused on providing the best viewing experience for their audience. And as a result, the biggest bottle-neck between the filmmaker and the VOD marketplace is not anything overly top secret. It is simply quality control and the encoding process.

If you have a title that you would like to sell, make sure your submission conforms to spec. This increases your chance of a successful QC. Many submissions get kicked back to the filmmaker because the source material contains errors or is not delivered in the proper format. And having even one wacky frame can significantly delay the QC process.

How To Prep Your Film For VOD

So if you are prepping your film for VOD distribution, make sure your editor outputs to the following Distribber specs.

  • For delivering your FEATURE in SD on tape, make sure it is Digibeta.
  • You may deliver your TRAILER either on a Digibeta or as a file on a CD.
  • Deliver your feature and trailer as Pro-Res files on a hard drive:

For SD:

  • File: Pro Res 422 HQ
  • 720 × 480 – aspect defined 16:9 = 853 × 480 / 4:3 = 640 × 480
  • Native Frame Rate
  • Film: 23.98
  • Video: 29.97i
  • Audio: PCM Little Endian
  • Ch. 1 left, Ch. 2 right – Each audio channel needs to be its own track

For HD:

  • File: Pro Res 422 HQ
  • 1920 × 1080
  • Native Frame Rate
  • Film: 23.98
  • Video:29.97i
  • Audio: Must have 8 channels of audio (5.1 – L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs / PCM Little Endian / Each audio channel needs to be its own track) OR (Ch. 7 stereo left, Ch. 8 stereo right / PCM Little Endian / Each audio channel needs to be its own track.)

In addition to conforming to the specs, you must also make sure that your source is free from hiccups and strange artifacts. Some common examples are: ghosting, inconsistent frame rates and repeating frames. You may not think that one or two frames is a big deal. But the platforms do. And they will reject your material at the first sign of trouble. This is a pain. And I want to help you avoid filmmaking pain.

Also, as a side note, please keep in mind that getting your movie into the marketplace does not guarantee that people will actually find your movie. For that, I suggest you do find out how to market and sell your movie.

How Do Filmmakers Compete?

The inside of an 8-track cartridge. The black ...

DVDs are going the way of the 8-Track Image via Wikipedia

With video on demand distribution and the emergence of several new VOD aggregators, independent movie distribution has become non-discriminatory. This means ALL filmmakers can access the marketplace without asking permission.

While this is exciting, it now means the market is flooded with content. Couple this paradigm shift with the demise of DVD sales channels, and you’ll find many traditional distributors are now offering VOD deals to unsuspecting filmmakers, in the hopes something sticks. While these deals hardly every include any upfront cash advances, filmmakers are usually attracted to the silly promise that these distributors will get their titles into iTunes.

But you don’t need those people. With companies like distribber YOU can get your movie onto iTunes without the middel-man.

And as my friend Jared says, anybody with a HDSRL camera can make a back yard barbeque look cinematic. Granted, this technology doesn’t automatically create good cinema – but it does flood the market with competing product.

What this shift represents to filmmakers is in ways akin to what happens when widget factory owners suddenly find themselves in the market, competing with sweat shop labor and cheaply produced goods of a comparable quality.

As a result, the widget that once sold for $100 dollars can no longer compete. And taking this a step further, if your widget company cannot make enough sales to be profitable – my question is:

What happens to the widget factory workers? Do they get pay raises or do they get laid off?

The good news is competition, technological innovations and change has impacted most every other industry since the beginning of capitalism. And despite these challenges, history is full of entrepreneurial innovation – stories of people who have rode the waves of change and prospered.

I believe independent filmmakers can do the same.

What we are facing as filmmakers is no different than any other business. In fact, I would say that we have just stepped into the era of the mini-studio. Filmmaking has become the next small business.

So how do we compete?