SxSW: New Media Goes to the Movies

by Luke Wroblewski March 9, 2007

The New Media Goes to the Movies panel at SxSW2007 was a conversation about the collision of movies (old media) with online video (new media). The panelists fielded a lot of questions from the audience and also discussed the current online distribution power players, what opportunities existed on the Web for independent filmmakers, and how to stand out among all the noise currently in the marketplace.

  • Online distribution remains predominately a platform to gain recognition, not profit. It is not the first place feature filmmakers consider for distribution.
  • There aren’t any clear examples of revenue for independent film online. Ask a Ninja only made about $20k last year. Diet Coke/Mentos video made just over $35k. As a result, it is difficult to support a full feature especially from an independent producer.

Distribution Services

  • Most online distribution services have pretty small feature film libraries (movie link, cinema now). So no truly dominant player exists but iTunes is a recognized leader. iTunes just let indie filmmakers into store the store with a snowboarding documentary.
  • Custom Flicks (owned by Amazon) distributes on demand DVDs and through Amazon UnBox.
  • There is a “secret” division of Disney working on viral videos for the Web.
  • Joost has a four-month waiting list for beta invites. Indie Flix has a channel on Joost and a revenue sharing agreement. They have the ability to program when ad shows up. It feels like being a programmer for NBC. What ads to run, where to put them?
  • Viacom took their content off of YouTube, but then cut a deal with Joost. Once there are other ways to get the content you want, YouTube wont be the only game in town.
  • In the next year or so we’ll see a shake out of who can become a power player. The traditional movie distribution process is not going away. Need to find formats that can profit in new media environments.

What formats might work online

  • How do you support economics of film (1 mil, 10 mil to make) in the online environment? Can you serialize it? Distribute in small chunks? Deliver it on mobile phones?
  • Short serials can build characters and ultimately become worthy of full features.
  • People have much less time now, which might drive the popularity of short form content.
  • New media adds interactivity. Virtual worlds create new environments and characters. Can you tell a story differently in different these mediums?
  • Older films that did not make it the first time around might have a chance again.
  • Consolidators can make money. Equivalent to Pandora, customized player for film content. Recommendations are a powerful leverage point for customized viewing experiences.
  • In the future, content may be free but supported by advertising.
  • Put free samples of your films online in as many places as you can.
  • Blip.tv allows you to put ad for your DVD or film after the sample. Rever instead gives you on of their ads.
  • Use filmmaker skills to tell story but in a new medium where you need to leverage economics of scale.
  • Democratization of film-making allows more people to make content and tailor it to multiple audiences.
  • For big companies, the ability to survive will be based on ability to democratize and address the needs of niche audiences.