There’s a high chance your film is already in the Vimeo system, so it only makes sense that the service has implemented paywalls to accommodate DIY distribution needs. The revenue split (10 percent to Vimeo) is low, but keep an eye on transaction fees, which the site says range from four to 17 percent. The remainder is yours. Vimeo On Demand has wide international availability and geo-blocking; it’s device-friendly and offers nice pluses like pre-orders and promo codes. You must create a $199 annual Vimeo Pro account in order to upload On Demand content. Accounts have 20GB of upload space per week and filmmakers are paid through PayPal. VOD viewers must register with Vimeo, which may be a barrier to sales.
VHX has no set-up costs and takes 10 percent plus $0.50 per sale. It has all the options (purchase, rental, screener or subscription) your users need, as well as gifting, coupon and flash sale options for you. Customizable web templates make the whole process simpler. If you’ve crowdfunded, VHX can help with fulfillment and can bundle other digital products, like soundtracks, with your film. If you want to sell outside the U.S., consider VHX, which states that 30 percent of sales are made internationally. It’s one of few services that publishes daily user stats.
“Aggregators,” “distributors”… as VOD has evolved, the terminology has acquired what the literati call “slippage.” Aggregators used to cull volume content for major VOD services and deal with the inconsistent tech specs, but now that they pitch, negotiate, and strategize an overall release strategy, they’re looking a lot like traditional distributors. The Orchard, which started in music and added VOD, went big-scale theatrical at Sundance 2015. FilmBuff, which made a name as a VOD specialist, is also now doing theatrical releasing. Meanwhile, theatrical distributors like Lionsgate are launching arms (Lionsgate Premier) to handle digital sales.
Whatever you call the following (and the dozens more we’ve not listed), they are a layer between you and your audience. In best-case scenarios, they bring you audience you couldn’t get on your own, and more than pay for themselves. So talk to others who’ve used them and crunch the numbers.
Distribber charges upfront fees ($1,560 for iTunes, $1,175 for Amazon, $995 for Hulu, $1,395 for Redbox, $2,250 for Netflix, $7,000 for cable VOD; fees can be discounted if filmmakers start with iTunes) plus a $225 annual fee. The service has expanded to accept all lengths and genres. GoDigital Inc. owns both Distribber the VOD platform CineVolt, which is offered to all filmmakers and charges a $5 submission fee and $0.33 per gigabyte of bandwidth used at the end of each month. The downside here is that there’s no guarantee of acceptance on platforms—and if accepted, little control over release timing or placement. It focuses primarily on U.S. and Canadian sales, and marketing is left to you.
Quiver Digital has lowered its upfront fees since 2014, now starting at $950 per feature, per version, and $400 per short (under 45 minutes), per version. Additional fees are possible. Their platforms include Amazon, Dish, Google Play, iN Demand, iTunes, Hulu, Microsoft, Netflix, Nook, Sony Entertainment, Steam and Vudu. Quiver’s agreements are non-exclusive, so you can go elsewhere, and their info-rich website answers many anticipated questions. There is no guarantee platforms will accept content, though. Quiver is growing fast (its catalog grew from 400 to 3,300 in one year), which means you may not get the hand-holding you want. You can get that kind of service from a company like Seed&Spark, though, which uses Quiver Digital to place its crowdfunded films with iTunes, Amazon, Hulu and the like.
The Orchard (owned by Sony Music) began with music distribution, then became a leader of VOD aggregation, and remains known for its Multi-Channel Network (MCN) on YouTube. Variety called it “the hot film distributor of 2015” in part because it picked up “five buzzy titles” at Sundance 2015, signaling its move into the theatrical arena as well. Past reports suggest a revenue split of 25-30 percent and the website lists Hulu, YouTube and Xbox among its platforms.
FilmBuff began as a full-service VOD distributor and it, too, is moving toward day-and-date theatrical releasing. The redesigned website requires filmmakers to submit without clear expectations of next steps. (“If we think it’s a match made in heaven, our acquisitions team will reach out,” it states.) FilmBuff sells to Amazon Instant, Best Buy CinemaNow, iTunes, Movies OnDemand, PlayStation Network, Vudu, YouTube and Xbox 360, and can handle everything from encoding to marketing and financials. If you prefer to hand off these aspects to a third party, FilmBuff may be right for you. MM
Erin Trahan edits The Independent and co-edited The Independent’s Guide to Film Distribution, Second Edition. She writes about movies for WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station. Visit erintrahan.com. This article appears in MovieMaker’s Complete Guide to Making Movies 2016, on newsstands this week.