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Netflix Exclusive Just First Step in Docurama's Bid For DocuDominance

27 Jun, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner


A deal giving Netflix an exclusive window on DVDs from documentary supplier Docurama is only the first such partnership for the all-documentary supplier, which is actively seeking opportunities to partner with other retailers.

“Documentaries are not quite an explosive category, but documentaries are hot. We'd like to be category managers for some of our retail partners,” said Docurama president Steve Savage.

Docurama will soon have its own boutique on Barnes & Noble's BN.com, Savage said. “We are having conversations with them about some exclusive products for them,” he said. “But we want to have conversations like this with all our retail partners.”

Netflix, for its part, has no similar deals in place, said Ted Sarandos, VP of content acquisition.

The Netflix First deal will give the leading online rentailer exclusive windows ranging from 30 to 120 days but averaging 60 to 90 days on Docurama's titles. That rankled a few retailers, but Sarandos and Savage said, long range, the deal will increase product available to those who rent and sell documentaries.

“This product would not have otherwise been acquired. It's too low-profile, it's coming from festivals,” Sarandos said. “We are enabling the market for these films.”

If the exclusivity is born of a challenge to documentary marketing, answering that challenge yields fruit for both sides.

“These films needed to somehow get out to market. When we had conversations with Netflix, we realized they had the software to help people find these films. It started with a film we worked with them on, Children Underground. It's everything that a great film is, but it is also hard to find a market for it,” Savage said. “Netflix sent some e-mail blasts and within less than 24 hours it had 800 requests. They are able to promote these interesting, incredible titles successfully to their market and to other markets. These films will also be showing up in other places.”

Netflix was the best retailer to get exposure for the titles because of its loyal following of consumers open to nonblockbuster films.

“Netflix is a maverick company so they were most open and most understood the opportunities to make this thing work,” Savage said. “We've been going to film festivals like crazy. We find a lot of films that are fantastic films, people are talking about them a lot. Yet, there's a lot of reasons these films are audience-challenged, not because the audience won't accept the film, but the audience won't find it."

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