Understanding Windowing: The 3 Types Of VOD Platforms

“Oh my gosh, we broke a window!” Hang around Hollywood long enough and you’ll eventually a some movie executive talk about how VOD platforms have completely changed the landscape of film distribution. And if you listen long enough, you might even hear some talk about the good-old-days.

As it turns out, distributing your film digitally is much different than physical film distribution. Back in the DVD days, it was easy for a film distributor to get a pretty good estimate of potential profits. You knew how many DVDs you needed to make. And you knew how much money you would make from the deal…

VOD platforms

Understanding Windowing

In addition to physical DVDs, there were also clear cut, traditional “release windows.”  This meant that there was a logistical path you’d take to release your film and maximize the long-tail revenue worldwide. Traditional windowing consisted of the following:

  • Theatrical
  • Pay per view
  • DVD release
  • PayTV
  • FreeTV

The reason for this type of windowing scenario was simple. It was designed to maximize profits. And as a result, you never wanted to “break a window” so to speak… Meaning if you released a film out of order, you could never go back. I mean, why would someone want to see your film in theaters if it was already available on DVD?

The 3 Types Of VOD Platforms

Nowadays it’s completely changed.  The windows mainly have to do with VOD (Video on Demand).  Though theatrical releases still apply, for indies, it’s mostly VOD.  There are three main VOD Platforms:

  1. TVOD (Transactional VOD… you pay to watch per film): iTunes, Vudu are examples.
  2. SVOD (Subscription VOD… you pay a monthly fee for access to free movies): Netflix and Hulu are examples.
  3. AVOD (Ad based VOD… you watch ads to watch movies for free): Tubi and Pluto are examples.

So how do you get your films on these VOD platforms? This depends on your goals. For some filmmakers, it is better to partner with a company with direct relationships to these platforms. And for other filmmakers, it makes sense to self distribute and pay to get films on the various VOD platforms.

The Issue with Self Distribution

When it comes to self-distribution, you’ll need to assess if you can take on the responsibilities of a distributor. Do you have the marketing power to get your film noticed? Do you have an existing audience? Are you ready to hustle your butt off for the next year or two, working to promote your film? If not, your film might be lost in the shuffle.  And that’s not going to lead to revenue.

Even if you decide to work with a distributor, you’ll still be required to help. This is because the best film distributors and sales agents will be looking to partner with you. They have the relationships and marketing dollars to promote your film on VOD Platforms. But they’ll still want you to reach out to your grassroots network to help spread word of mouth.

While you can’t  just sit back and hope that your film gets found… Coming up with a film distribution strategy early in the process can help you better assess which VOD platforms make the most sense for your windowing strategy. And if you’d like more info on the overarching filmmaking process, check out Filmmaking Stuff HQ.

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ARTICLE BY Tom Malloy

Tom Malloy is a film producer, actor, and writer. Over the course of his career, he has raised over twenty-five million dollars to produce, and distribute multiple feature films. If you're ready to "level up" your film producing, make sure to check out Movie Plan Pro. The video training and downloadable film business plan template will provide you with the same tools Malloy uses when approaching prospective film investors.
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