I’ve recently stepped into the world of direct US Distribution. This is primarily due to things I’ve learned from several other US Releases I’ve overseen as a Producer’s Rep. One of the most common questions I get is what platforms to release a film on. So, instead of answering the same thing over and over, I’ve decided to put my thoughts into a blog.
When answering this question, the biggest questions you have to ask yourself are what platforms are likely to yield the highest return. I know that’s obvious, but it’s not as easy to find that information as you would think. A lot of TVOD (Transactional Video On Demand) Sales are in the toilet, and it’s surprisingly common for filmmakers not to make their money back.
So all of that being said, here are the platforms I’ve had the best luck with so far. This is all through a very narrow lens, of films I’ve represented, but it’s information straight from the horse’s mouth.
Vimeo on your Website
No matter what your distribution deal is, you’re going to want to hold back the right to sell the film yourself through Vimeo on your website. You may have to work on the timing of this with your distributor due to piracy reasons, but it is something that you need to know.
This gives you the ability to sell your film no matter what happens with your distribution deal, and guarantees you can make yourself some level of return, even if it’s tiny.
Cable TVOD are essentially the grandchild of the Pay Per View us older millennials and Gen Xers grew up with. These are the rentals you can get directly from your Cable box. These tend to convert at pretty decent numbers, since people who actually still have cable packages have the money to rent movies through their system and often do.
From what I’ve seen, InDemand from Comcast pays out the best, followed by DirectTV’s rental system.
Where you get placed in these systems can greatly impact how much you make from them, so if you can get yourself a 7-10 city theatrical run you’re going to be in a much better place.
In terms of how long you can expect your film to be tied up there, normally these licenses last at least 6 months, often up to 2 years, or whenever the provider feels like taking them down.
Next up is iTunes. If you’re releasing your film, you need to get it on iTunes. This is partially due to it remaining one of the best selling TVOD platforms, but also because it’s the most technically stringent for you to get on. If you can make it on iTunes, you can make it anywhere.
Often that’s the real reason that aggregators put iTunes as the first required platform on the list, and then give you discounts to other outlets.
So long as you’ve got a good marketing plan, you’ll generally at least make your aggregation investment back from iTunes. I know that’s not saying a lot, but it’s a start, and there are many platforms where that’s not true.
While Google Play may seem like it’s the equal opposite of iTunes, in practice it down’t pan out this way. Part of the reason could be the greater market penetration of Apple TVs, or it could be that people who buy apple products tend to have the expendable income to buy movies, or it could be something else entirely. While I can’t say why with any certainty, I can say that you should give google play a miss.
If your film is targeted more towards millenials, you may want to consider making it available on YouTube. The numbers out of YouTube TVOD can be surprisingly good, often rivaling iTunes if the film is targeted towards Millenials. This probably has something to do with the fact that you don’t have to leave the platform you’ve hosted the trailer on.
If your film had any level of a theatrical release, you should consider fandango now. The numbers tend to be pretty good.
If you haven’t had a theatrical release, discoverability on the platform can be lacking. I wouldn’t bother.
Related: 9 Things I Learned from My First Theatrical Release
Honestly, I haven’t had much luck with the direct TVOD sales through Xbox One and PS4. I personally wouldn’t bother with them. If your content is oriented towards 15-24 year old males, or has some tie in to video game culture then it might be worth trying, but in general it’s hard to even make back your aggregation fees.
DEFINATELY put your film on Amazon.
I’d recommend doing it in two stages, first, as a TVOD/MOD (Manufacture on Demand) DVD release in line with your other TVOD releases, and second as an SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) release through Amazon Prime.
Once you get it set up on Amazon Prime, you’d be surprised how quickly Prime will overshadow the rest of your VOD sales. Generally, waiting 3 months for prime as a window is about right, just to make sure you get the most you can out of your other TVOD outlets.
You won’t have to take them down for prime, but you will see the sales figures drop steadily once the film is free to watch on a service pretty much everyone has.
That said, it will be much easier to get people to watch the film once it’s free on Amazon Prime. Once it’s set to go live, make sure you get AT LEAST 5 friends to watch it ALL THE WAY THROUGH and rate it. If they do, it serves as a recommendation to Amazon’s Algorithm and it recommends the film to up to 100 more people you don’t know.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope it was helpful for you. If all of this sounds like a bit much to you, or if you’re tired after taking all that time to MAKE your film, you should consider both my producer’s representation and direct distribution offers. Submit your film below, and I’ll reach out after I watch it. Unlike most aggregators, I don’t charge anything to put your film out there, and I’ll consider booking it in theaters for you.
If you want to ask questions about distribution strategy, consider booking a FREE Strategy Session with me through clarity! Both of those links can be found below.
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My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of PRoducer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.
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