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AFM Panelists Tout Advantages of VOD

12 Nov, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — On Sept. 5, independent distributor Gravitas Ventures released the Olivia Wilde and Jason Bateman comedy-drama The Longest Week day and date in both theaters and on VOD and electronic sellthrough via digital platforms.

And while the film pulled in almost nothing on the big screen, it made “a few million” via digital, according to Gravitas CEO and founder Nolan Gallagher. Indeed, according to Rentrak data covering digital sales and rentals, The Longest Week quickly hit No. 14 on its top 20 EST and VOD list (for the week ended Sept. 14).

Speaking Nov. 11 at the American Film Market conference, Gallagher said people are consuming VOD in record numbers, especially on mobile devices, and that it’s become increasingly important for film distributors to treat a digital release with the same gravitas as theatrical.

“Getting the film up there, online, that’s possible,” Gallagher said. “It’s a matter of aggregating your audience ahead of time. Treat your VOD debut the way you’d treat your theatrical debut, and there can be real money in it.”

Paul Davidson, SVP of film and TV for distributor The Orchard, can attest to that. His company released the documentary film Harmontown, about writer-comedian Dan Harmon, in early October. The film follows Harmon on tour for his podcast series, which regularly pulls in more than a million listeners.

“When you have a community around [a property], you can plan a release around it. That’s very appealing,” Davidson said. “It’s easier to get to ‘my audience,’ a small cross-section. That’s realistic in the short term.”

But in theaters, across digital platforms, day and date? That’s just not so simple for independent filmmakers.

Still, getting on VOD platforms is easier than ever, thanks to the investments made by companies to remove the barriers for entry, according to Doug Sylvester, president of multiplatform video services company Vubiquity.

“What then becomes the issue is getting noticed,” Sylvester said. “More and more owners of content … have to take on that responsibility.”

Amazon, Netflix and iTunes have done a masterful job of knowing the consumers using their services, Sylvester said. However, they don’t share that data very quickly with everyone else. “You can get a very clear picture [of data] across platforms, but you’re looking back six months,” he said.

There’s a reason for that, according to John Sloss, founder of New York-based film and media advisory services company Cinetic Media. “The people who hoard data, keep it secret, profit off it,” Sloss said.


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