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Diary of a Film Startup: Post # 22: Outlet Soup
By Ted Hope
By Roger Jackson
Previously: Delivery Begins
It seems like every few days there’s an announcement of another video-on-demand platform. We’ve been tracking them since we started 6 months ago. I have a spreadsheet listing them all — where they are, what type of films they want, deal terms, ownership, traffic ranking, etc. As of today there are 163 on my list, and I’m sure I’m missing a few. What does this mean? How is it possible for even a fraction of these platforms to thrive and prosper in a VoD ecosystem dominated by large incumbents with established brands, pre-existing audiences and deep pockets? Netflix has 27m subscribers in the USA and is rapidly expanding in Europe and Latin America, with 6m+ non-US subscribers already. Amazon has a multi-billion dollar VoD war-chest and has gobbled up LOVEFiLM in the UK and Germany. Hulu is closing in on a billion dollars in annual revenue, and already has 3m subscribers for Hulu Plus. And Vudu is owned by Walmart. Oh, and Dreamworks and Technicolor just launched their impressive VoD platform, M-GO. Even Microsoft is getting into the VoD game with Xbox Live Movies. Of course, from KinoNation’s point of view, this expanding system just makes our service more valuable, since most filmmakers want their movie available on as many of these services as possible. So I’m busy signing deals with as many of these 163 outlets as possible.
Since we’re now actively “pitching” the first tranche of Kinonation films, I thought it might be useful to give a few examples of movies that have been Accepted by outlets in various countries — outlets such as Hulu, iTunes, SnagFilms, Viewster, IndieReign, Kinopto. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but a sampling of ten films — 5 features and 5 docs — in various categories and from various countries — that have been green-lit for distribution by our VoD partners. I’m linking here to the trailers.
What do they have in common? I’m not sure, except they’re all compelling, unique, attention-grabbing. The trailers don’t waste precious time — they get right to it. Plus the simple but important first impression stuff that I never stop talking about — attractive, clear, readable poster art. Intriguing — or at least not boring — title. Some film festival laurels and a decent number of views for the trailer. Plus a level of depth, care and completeness for the metadata. e.g. IMDb page has poster art, festival info up to date, thumbnails for the main actors, etc. All requires work, but very achievable, and makes ALL the difference when VoD outlets are making their Yes or No decisions.
Speaking of Metadata…
It’s increasingly clear to me that for films to succeed in this VoD ecosystem they must have incredibly rich, detailed and imaginative metadata. We’ve just released to our 100+ beta testers the latest version of our site with a radically expanded “super-set” of metadata. It’s SO important for filmmakers to invest time in this data — a lot of time — that I’m tempted to head each of the 12 metadata pages with “Spend at least 2 hours here before you move on to the next page!” Seriously? 24 hours or so of brainstorming and thought and effort in things like plot descriptions, keywords, images and marketing data? Yes, absolutely! In my previous post I covered the critical importance of rich, detailed and imaginative keywords & phrases. And I’ve already written about why kick-ass key art, poster image and thumbnails are mission critical to getting the audience to buy. The bottom line is that once your initial online sales push (email blasts, Facebook posts, press release) is done, you want your film to get found — discovered is a better word — over and over, year in, year out, across dozens of VoD platforms. That only happens with excellent metadata.
Keep ‘em Coming
Finally, great films are submitted to KinoNation every day. This one — the beautifully shot Julien & Claire — came in today. Love it — can’t wait to watch the full length version that will be automatically generated once filmmaker Adam Neustadter completes the upload. Keep them coming.
Roger Jackson is a producer and the co-founder of film distribution start-up KinoNation. He was Vice President, Content for digital film pioneer iFilm.com and has produced short films in Los Angeles, documentaries in Darfur, Palestine and Bangladesh, a reality series for VH1 and one rather bad movie for FuelTV. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.