Wednesday, February 18, 2015

iTunes v. Amazon v. Netflix v. Hulu from an Indie Filmmaker Perspective

I have had my films Take Me Home, Not Since You and The Diary of Preston Plummer on each of the following platforms: iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. And I thought I would talk about the pros and cons of each of these high profile Video on Demand sites. Bottomline, I love them all for different reasons. Definitely try to get your films on all four - only stagger the launch dates. I'll explain why.

iTunes should be part of your initial launch on Video on Demand. Pros: iTunes gets a lot of traffic and being on iTunes gives your film status. People are impressed when they hear a film is on iTunes. Impressed people seek out your work. And on iTunes, your audience must pay for each download and rental, which will help your bottomline. You can also get your trailer placed on their trailer site too, which immensely helps with the visibility of your title. Cons: It costs about $1500 to get your film placed on iTunes and you have to go through an aggregator so it's not the easiest or most affordable platform. And once your deal with your aggregator is over, your title will be removed from iTunes and you will have to figure out how to get it back on iTunes or leave it off. But definitely aim to get your film placed on this platform when you launch online.

Amazon is a great platform to include on your initial release on Video on Demand. Pros: It's a popular, trusted site for your audience. You will get a lot of traffic and I found most of my titles performed the best on this platform. Your audience has to pay for each download or rental, which is nice. And you can easily upload your film yourself to Amazon, for free! Bonus! And you can use their CreateSpace site to offer DVDs-on-Demand to your audience. We do that with our title The Diary of Preston Plummer. It's a great way to offer a DVD without having to make a bunch of DVDs and store them in your closet. Cons: I don't really have a con about Amazon other than Amazon takes a nice chunk of change for their cut but it's a popular site so that's to be expected.

Netflix is awesome once your title has been available online for a few months. I say this because as soon as your title is on Netflix, everyone will go there to watch it. So unless you get a hefty licensing offer from Netflix out of the gate, I suggest waiting to put your film on that platform until VOD sales start dropping off (maybe like 6 months after your initial VOD launch). When that happens, a presence on Netflix rejuvenates your title with audiences and you can secure a nice licensing fee (hopefully) to help boost your revenues for the next year or two. Pros: Netflix is extremely popular so you will be opening your film up to a huge audience. It's prestigious to get your film on Netflix. Prestige is great for your film! Since Netflix is subscription-based, more people will take a chance on watching your film since it's included in their monthly subscription, which means more people are checking out your work. Netflix has a wonderful review section for its members. You can rack up a long list of reviews of your film that you can use on social media to promote your movie. Their license fees are a nice addition to your revenue. Cons: As soon as your film is on Netflix, everyone will go there to see it. You will notice a steep drop in VOD sales/rentals on other platforms. For this reason, I suggest staggering a Netflix sale to later in the process. You will need a sales agent to get your film on Netflix. I haven't heard of anyone directly selling their film to Netflix - I'm not saying it's impossible but it's not the norm.

Hulu is a terrific follow up to your Netflix sale. Based on my experience, releasing a film on Hulu is probably best a few months into your Netflix deal so you can promote both properly. Sometimes it can get hard to be pushing your audience to multiple platforms at the same time. But this is an individual choice to be made with your sales agent. Each film's strategy may be a little different. Pros: On basic Hulu (not Hulu Plus), your film is available for free to your audience - which is a pro and a con since you earn from the commercials they play during the film but your film is chopped up with commercials. If a film is free then you will entice an audience who likes getting things for free. Hulu is a well known platform so people are impressed when you say your film is on Hulu. Again, impressed people will speak well of your film and seek it out to watch. Cons: Hulu places commercials throughout your film. This is not a filmmaker's dream. We don't like it when our audience is taken out of our story to watch an ad, but we do love the wider audience Hulu can bring so it works out. 

If you want to check out my films on some of these platforms, here are the links: 

Not Since You is available as a DVD through Netflix!

Take Me Home will be back on Amazon soon!

I even have some titles on Vimeo, IndieReign and VHX and hopefully soon on IndieFlix. I'm always looking to try new platforms but what I've found is that most of the revenue my titles have earned has been on the larger platforms, even with their hefty fees.

The above insights are based on my personal experiences with my own films. I am not endorsing distribution strategies or platforms. Each film is different and so is every distribution strategy. Good luck figuring out yours!

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