Diary of a Film Start-Up Part 10: Three Months of Work

By Roger Jackson

Previously: Filmmakers Festival Feedback

3 Months In

We’ve been at it for three months now. Building a platform like KinoNation from scratch is an enormous amount of work, and like most start-ups we have limited resources. But we’re having fun, meeting a ton of really great people in the indie film world, and making rapid progress. Most important, we’re increasingly certain that KinoNation is a viable business, and we’ve been able to validate (prove) most of  our early assumptions.

The Uploader software is working great -- dozens of films from around the world have been successfully uploaded to our cloud storage, and dozens more are currently in progress. We’re already working on version 2 which should speed things up significantly. We’re now busy building the all important “dashboard” -- the web interface that allows filmmakers to see what VoD platforms have selected their film, and allows the VoD platforms to review films and select the ones they want. In many ways it’s the core of the movie marketplace we’re constructing.

10 VoD Lessons

Meanwhile, we’ve climbed (partially) the steep learning curve of video-on-demand, thanks to daily meetings and calls with smart and generous people in the industry. Here’s are some of the top 10 things we’ve learned, that I think are useful to all indie filmmakers. They’re anecdotal -- meaning I haven’t independently verified the numbers, and I’m certainly not the first on this blog to discuss VoD, but I think they’re instructive.


1. 70% of US video-on-demand revenue is generated by Cable VoD. Not surprising since they’ve been in the on-demand game the longest, and they have a captive audience to whom they can promote their VoD titles.


2. 30% of US video-on-demand revenue is generated by Internet VoD. By which I mean iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Vudu, Amazon and many others.


3. Approx. 70% of film festival acquisition deals are now “driven” by video-on-demand. I know this sounds like a throwaway number, and it probably is, but I’ve heard it from three different sources. Whatever the percentage, it’s a clear indication that the market for indie films will increasingly be dominated by video-on-demand.


4. VoD is generating real, meaningful revenue for hundreds, if not thousands, of indie films. As in thousands of dollars a month. It’s not trivial any more, if it ever was. Hopefully more specificity on that in future posts.


5. VoD is in many ways more of an annuity driven revenue stream rather than an event driven revenue stream. Theatrical and DVD releases in the traditional distribution model were events. They had street dates and windows. VoD also has a release date, of course, but it doesn’t fit the old “windowing” system, because VoD is forever. Meaning your film should still be available in 20 years. Of course, that means you have to keep marketing it so you continue to see that long-tail income.


6. It’s a really bad idea to just get your film onto 1 or 2 random platforms just to get it out there. So while it’s super-simple to get a movie onto Amazon VoD, it’s probably not the best idea. i.e. You need a planned and rational VoD distribution roll-out.


7. It’s critical to think about VoD marketing before you start shooting. Because while there will be some organic discovery of your film -- consumers stumbling upon it -- much of your revenue will come from an audience that you’ve worked hard to aggregate and then drive to rent or buy.


8. Hollywood has really woken up to VoD. If they were even asleep. Smaller movies are being released day & date theatrical and VoD. David Giancola’s riveting Addicted to Fame, about Anna Nicole-Smith and the making of the B-Movie “Illegal Aliens,” has it’s theatrical release on November 30th. VoD release is three weeks earlier, on November 6th.


9. There are over 100 video-on-demand platforms. It’s definitely not all about Cable + iTunes + Netflix.  Roku is having a huge impact.  Snag Films is a great revenue source for indie films, as is Fandor. And, of course, YouTube Movies and GooglePlay are fast becoming major platforms for indie films. KinoNation will distribute to all of them. It’s a vast, growing and complex VoD ecosystem.


10. This one is pure anecdote: dozens of traditional distribs struggling, or going out of business. They’re unable to adapt to the rapid demise of DVD, as the rise of VoD requires a whole new set of skills. At least that’s what I’ve heard.



Finally, we continue to get great films submitted every day to our Private Beta. One that caught my attention is Thirst, sent by Aussie producer Megan George. Keep them coming!


Next week: Post # 11:  Ranking System for Indie Films

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 roger@kinonation.com.