As filmmakers, we are in the midst of a major movie distribution paradigm shift. Traditional theatrical release models as well as DVD sales channels are being replaced by video on demand platforms. These changes have forever altered the ways in which movies are seen and sold. As a consequence, getting into Sundance and selling your movie for instant fame, fortune and a three picture is probably not a realistic business plan.
While it is possible that your movie will be a break out hit, it is more likely that your movie will end up as one of the many titles in Amazon, iTunes, Hulu and NetFlix. As a result, what filmmakers need to know about Video On Demand is pretty simple. Your movie will not succeed without an audience. And you will not source an audience without including a solid sales and marketing strategy in your business plan.
A few months back I took on the role as the Director of Operations at a VOD aggregator called Distribber. This experience has allowed me to gain insights on emerging trends video on demand distribution and also see first hand how some filmmakers are embracing this new movie business.
As your business shifts from filmmaker to film distributor, it is important to know that your video on demand distribution strategy will usually be comprised of three models, including Transactional VOD, Subscription VOD, Ad Supported VOD. The following provides basic overview what filmmakers need to know about VOD:
Transactional Video On Demand
With Transactional VOD people can only watch your movie after they make a payment. Some of the platforms such as Amazon and iTunes have made transactions easy. They keep customer credit card information on file, which means prospective viewers are only one or two clicks away from watching your movie.
Two of the most popular and transactional platforms for filmmakers are Amazon and iTunes.
Amazon: How to Get Your Film Into Amazon Instant Video
Getting your titles into Amazon is a relatively straightforward process. To get started, sign up for a free account at and submit the necessary details about your title. You will need to upload artwork and then submit a DVD of your movie. Once complete, you title will be made available in the Amazon marketplace.
If you are outside the United States and would like to access Amazon, you will need to go through a US based aggregator. Distribber offers this service to non US filmmakers.
iTunes: How to Distribute You Movie on iTunes
Getting your title into iTunes is a bit tricky. You will need to go through an aggregator, like Distribber. Just anticipate some delays in getting during the quality control process. Because iTunes has some of the highest standards for encoding, many titles will not be accepted to iTunes on first pass. And if the encoding house cannot fix the issue, you will have to fix your source and resubmit.
Subscription Video On Demand
Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) is a convenient model that allows subscribers to sign up for a service, pay a monthly fee and in exchange, have access to unlimited programs. This model is great for consumers because, well, they can watch anything.
As a filmmaker getting your title onto a subscription based platform could be a great play for getting your title discovered. As a possible downside, unless you strike an awesome licensing deal you may be a little disheartened if your title gets a gazillion views and you have not seen a dime.
Netflix: How to Distribute You Movie on Netflix
Netflix will not make an offer for your movie unless you are already in their database. Netflix only includes the titles in their database that they already scouted. Even if you are in the database, the challenge is getting the “queue demand” up on the title so their algorithm determines if it makes sense to acquire your movie.
You best bet for Netflix (assuming you are in their database) is working with an aggregator with a track record for negotiating great deals with them.
Advertisement Supported Video On Demand
Many platforms make money by placing targeted advertising in front of the viewer. This type of model can be win-win, as many ad supported platforms provide the filmmaker with a portion of the ad revenue. The viewer gets to watch your movie without making a transaction.
Hulu: How to Distribute Your Movie on Hulu
In the United States, Hulu has gained popularity as a great way to watch popular television shows and movies on demand. Unlike transactional platforms, Hulu makes their money by peppering content with advertisements. And assuming they acquire your title, Hulu will pay you a portion of the advertising revenue.
Getting your title in Hulu once again requires working with an aggregator who can make a pitch to Hulu on your behalf. Like any platform, Hulu is looking for great content. While trends change monthly, if you have a documentary or a niche specific title, Hulu may be worth exploring. Based on this criteria, our movie Toxic Soup was accepted on the Hulu platform.
Embeddable Player for Filmmakers
While best practices emphasize the importance of getting your movies seen in selling in the popular video on demand marketplaces, there are many filmmakers who have strong audience engagement and heavy, targeted internet traffic. As a result, it makes a lot of sense for these filmmakers to sell directly to their audiences.
Distrify: How to Distribute Your Movie on Distrify
Distrify provides filmmakers with an easy way to upload movies and embed the player on their sites. This player also has a strong social media component and promotes word of mouth advertising and social sharing. Additionally, Distrify gives you the tools to sell DVDs and merchandise with no upfront costs.
The Watchbox: How to Distribute Your Movie on The WatchBox
I met the CEO of The Watchbox when we were on a panel together at Sundance. Aside from touting a pretty clean transactional platform, what makes The Watchbox interesting for filmmakers is their new embeddable player. You simply upload your movie, set a price and then embed the player on your website.
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While there are no guarantees in business, utilizing these movie distribution tools may dramatically increase the odds of getting your movie seen and selling. And if you need a little extra help on the marketing side, make sure you check out www.HowToSellYourMovie.com