“Self-distribution” is a phrase that a lot of people in Indie Pictures spit about. But it has to be the future in this market. Amazon and Apple just are not stepping up to the plate fast enough and the old financier-filmmaker-salesagent-distributor model splits the money too many ways for it to live for much longer. Digital distribution is as much the future of movies as digital cameras or edit systems.
Google owns YouTube – forgive me if that is old news but there are actually a lot of people who don’t know that – which has seemed for a long time to be the only game in town for user-published video. There are others but none have been worth mentioning. And because posting and watching on YouTube has always been free, it seemed to most of us that a business that streamed media online was not possible.
Then Google started running ads. True, it takes an obscene amount of views on any “monetized” YouTube video to make a respectable income but it is totally possible. Their sales/rental model has thus far been a poor competitor to Apple’s or Amazon’s but with commercial breaks, it is still a viable way for filmmakers and episodic makers to earn dough for their efforts.
And then there was Vimeo. I’ve been a member of Vimeo since 2009 and a champion for the growing company even when glitches in their system put me in an embarrassing red-faced situation with clients. I still have stayed true, six years later. And I have to say – I am a bigger believer than before.
Vimeo takes 10% of the box office on your videos as compared to 30% on iTunes or 20%-ish on Amazon. Vimeo is committed against YouTube-style embedded ads in the videos and Vimeo’s system for signing up to buy movies is streamlined better than any other website or service in the business.
The problem is that, so far, Vimeo users have to rent or buy from their computers, which cuts out a lot of the market who prefer to watch movies on their TV with set-top devices like Roku or AppleTV. It also estranges the growing market of people who consume almost all multimedia on portable devices, which likely would qualify as “in-app purchases” meaning that even if Vimeo were to upgrade their iOS or Android apps to sell directly in the app, they would be more expensive than publishing through iTune or YouTube.
So, you have to buy or rent from your web browser, first, no matter where you plan to watch. Yes, I can watch a vimeo VOD video that you buy or rent using the Vimeo app on my AppleTV, but the process is a little convoluted:
For mobile moviewatchers that may not be a problem, seeing as they have web browsers on the device so that they can purchase over the internet and watch on the internet without even needing to install the Vimeo app.
While Vimeo has been trying to siren-call YouTube’s biggest revenue-producers to Vimeo (many of whom are making more money on Vimeo’s renting and selling videos on the company’s VOD program), the two video companies may be able to peacefully co-exist.
While Vimeo is awesome for selling your movies, it is crap for promoting them unless you make it onto Vimeo’s coveted “Staff Picks”. You can pay to be featured to existing Vimeo users, but the real star value of Vimeo is that it is so remarkably shareable while not necessarily being shoved in front of cold market viewers the way that posting onto YouTube is.
For example, I love Atheist writer and neuroscientist Sam Harris. But his newest book, “Waking Up”, weirds me out. I just don’t want to spend more of my time on another Sam Harris book if it’s going to be about pseudo-religious hokey nonsense that makes me dislike one of my favorite authors. But I will invest an hour into listening to him summarize it! Well, that is exactly what Sam Harris has made and posted onto Vimeo for $5. This is what the page looks like:
This is what it looks like if I share it on facebook and then a user “hovers” over the trailer while it plays:
Facebook or Twitter is dandy, but how do you get to those cold-market people who are interested in movies like yours? In the end, it’s gotta be Google AdWords or even – *gasp* – YouTube. Welcome to a new world, my friends.