Attend any film festival and you’ll hear filmmakers waxing poetically about the possibilities of landing a Netflix distribution deal. And having spent the greater part of my career working in film distribution, I can tell you that most filmmakers approach me asking how to contact Netflix directly.
In truth, unless your film project has major notoriety (because it played at a top tier film festival or has ginormous buzz) Netflix prefers that you utilize an established distributor or aggregator.
But there is hope…
Three Steps For Netflix Distribution
Netflix is as a premium subscription channel similar HBO or Showtime. They pay a licensing fee for content they are interested in. And for these reasons, most Netflix distribution deals are negotiated by a distributor or aggregator. With all of this said, here are some steps to get you started.
Step 1 – Refine Your Pitch For Netflix
Because nearly every filmmaker dreams of getting a Netflix deal, there is an abundant supply of content. This means you will have to find some creative ways to make your film rise above the noise and get noticed. So before you reach out to a distributor or an aggregator, you need to clearly demonstrate “what’s in it for Netflix.”
Here are some questions to help refine your pitch:
- Do you have any “names” or “influencers” in your film?
- Does your film focus on a popular subject?
- Does your film have a strong social media following or press?
Once you have a strong pitch that showcases the value of your film, your next step is to partner with a distributor or aggregator capable of making the pitch. These entities will first evaluate your film to determine if your film (and your pitch) has a good shot at getting picked up.
Step 3 – Get A Response
If your film gets pitched to Netflix, it will take a few weeks to get a response. If Netflix is interested, they will negotiate directly with your distributor or aggregator. If accepted, your distributor will work with various vendors and encoding houses to deliver your film. You will need to provide your distributor or aggregator with all the necessary video files and artwork.
(Note: If Netflix chooses to license worldwide rights, you will need to deliver subtitles and localized artwork for each territory.)
If Netflix is passes on your film, you usually won’t get a lot of feedback. Do not take this personally. Perhaps Netflix picked up a similar film last week. Or perhaps the acquisition team is focused on other genres.
While we are on the subject of subscription video on demand (SVOD), it may behoove you to check out Amazon Prime. The service is similar to Netflix in the sense that subscribers can view anything in the Prime ecosystem. But unlike Netflix, Prime does not pay licensing fee. You are actually paid based on hours viewed.
If you would like to learn more about film distribution, check out my guide to VOD distribution. It just might help.