For Filmmakers: DIY Digital Distribution Platforms

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So you’ve made your film… Now you start the biggest challenge of them all: getting it seen. In the past few years, digital distribution platforms have been popping up around the Internet, making a do-it-yourself distribution plan actually feasible. Whether you use direct digital distribution as a way to supplement DVD sales or a television license fee, or if you use it as your only method of distribution, it can be a challenge to pick the right service. Check out our list of DIY digital distribution platforms in our For Filmmakers portal, and read what each of them had to say below about their services.

Note: Our list is limited to services with no curation process — it does not include Netflix, Vodo, Indieflix, Indiepix and many others that require approval. Most companies answered our questions, but some did not. If we’re missing anything in the list, let us know at filmmakers[at]pov.org.

Chill

http://chill.com

Update: Chill announced it would be shutting down permanently on December 15, 2013.

What are the fees a filmmaker will typically pay to use your service, and what’s the filmmaker’s cut?
Filmmaker gets 70% of all sales with no hidden fees.

What support/services might a filmmaker expect from your platform?
Customer support. Social sharing and marketing tools built into the buy flow.

What sets your product aside from all of the others?
Crowdfunding integration: We created flexible ways for you to offer redemption codes to fulfill your Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers and to offer promotions.

Social Marketing to the Max: Chill was built from the ground up to support the automatic socialization of your project.

Upsell with merchanise bundles: Offer merchandise, exclusive experiences or digital extras for your fans, all while increasing your average order value.

Real-time sales dashboard: Tailor your marketing strategy and tactics with instant feedback about sales, conversions, referral data and more.

Custom embeddable video player: Our lightweight video player can be embedded on any site to drive sales, and works on any phone, tablet, computer or TV.

Mobile support is built in: Chill was built to work and look perfect on all devices, from original Android phones to the latest Apple tablets.

We’ve got Twitter cards: Chill was one of the first Twitter Card media partners, which means our custom player plays directly in the Twitter stream on twitter.com and in Twitter’s mobile apps. Your trailer gets premium placement with every Tweet — complete with a buy button.

Automatic hashtag campaigns: You won’t have to ask people to share your hashtag. We automatically create one and integrate it into every Tweet generated by your project.

Facebook news feed video player: We built a custom version of our video player to present your project’s trailer in anyone’s News Feed and Timeline with a clear buy button. Now, you’ll know that when anyone shares your project on Facebook, there’s a clear path to purchase.

In which situations should a filmmaker select a do-it-yourself digital distributor?
This is best in situations when filmmakers have already built a strong social community around their movie.

What are the biggest changes you expect to happen in the next few years that will affect a filmmaker’s digital distribution strategy?
The way filmmakers release movies will increasingly rely on The Social Window.

CreateSpace

http://createspace.com

This service provides DIY distribution and publishing on Amazon.com. The answers below refer mainly to CreateSpace’s DVD service.

What are the fees a filmmaker will typically pay to use your service, and what’s the filmmaker’s cut?
No fees, except for your own proofs and member copies that you may wish to order. For DVDs sold to customers, your royalty equals the list price you set in your Member Account minus our share. Our share is calculated by taking a percentage of the list price plus a fixed charge. The fixed charge is $4.95 per unit. The percentage varies depending on where you list your DVD: CreateSpace eStore = 15%, Amazon.com = 45%.

For example:
$ (List Price) – $4.95 (fixed charge) – $ (45% of List Price) = $ Royalty for one sale on Amazon.com
$ (List Price) – $4.95 (fixed charge) – $ (15% of List Price) = $ Royalty for one sale on your eStore

What support/services might a filmmaker expect from your platform?
Our Member Services team is available 24/7, 365 days a year. The team will assist you with any questions you may have and also escalate issues if it cannot be solved at Member Services level. Our site’s help index contains all the relevant information that you will need to get yourself published through us.

Why should a filmmaker pick your service over all the others?
A filmmaker may choose us, together with any other service provider of their choosing. We do not lay claim to our members’ titles.

What is your business model?
Produce-On-Demand. No inventory is kept. Titles are manufactured ‘on demand’, when orders are placed.

What are the biggest changes you expect to happen in the next few years that will affect a filmmaker’s digital distribution strategy?
We anticipate independent publishing (Books, Music, Films) to be mainstream within middle to short term.

Distrify

http://www.distrify.com

What are the fees a filmmaker will typically pay to use your service, and what’s the filmmaker’s cut?
It’s best to point visitors at our pricing page since the revenue splits vary depending on which plan you’re using and the price and type of products you offer. http://distrify.com/plan

What support/services might a filmmaker expect from your platform?
Distrify is a DIY platform that streamlines the technical side of getting your film selling online and also enhances your ability to market through social and viral networks. Saying that, we have some incredible marketing partnerships that we can leverage in some cases. Using a DIY film sales platform is great, but you need to get your film spread out through the web if you want to reach eyeballs and earn revenue. Our Shared Rewards programme is a great catalyst for virality – and our marketing partners can often add a big boost to your launch.

Why should a filmmaker pick your service over all the others?
Distrify has been established longer than any similar service and is the market leader for Direct-to-Audience film sales. Further, our founders have a background in documentary production and sales and know the market better than any tech company out there. Distrify also offers unique features that encourage people to sign up to your mailing list and to share and promote your film. No other service compares when it comes to helping your films go viral. And no other service offers the level of transparency and access to data that you get with Distrify.

What is your business model?
Distrify charges a small transaction fee on each sale that allows us to run the service and cover all the costs associated with payments, hosting, streaming, and customer service.

In which situations should a filmmaker select a do-it-yourself digital distributor?
Distrify is an excellent choice for all films. Like a bowl of cereal is an excellent part of a complete breakfast, Distrify is becoming an essential part of a complete distribution strategy. In some cases – for example if you have a super-niche film with a very active online community – it may be wise to go straight to Distrify as your sole outlet. We’ve had a number of successful documentaries like this. Typically, however, most films benefit from a complete strategy including festivals, TV sales and streaming and DVDs via Distrify. Having your film on many different types of platforms helps people find out about it, and you want to be sure that your film’s website always has a prominent Distrify player on the homepage since people who see it on TV or hear about it at a festival will likely search for your film’s website and will want to buy it there via Distrify.

What are the biggest changes you expect to happen in the next few years that will affect a filmmaker’s digital distribution strategy?
Consumers are increasingly demanding the ability to discover and watch films everywhere. We’re going to see more convergence of release windows and more collaboration across national boundaries with marketing and release strategies.

IndieReign

http://www.indiereign.com

What are the fees a filmmaker will typically pay to use your service, and what’s the filmmaker’s cut?
There are no fees for filmmakers to use IndieReign. Upload your film, and 70% of each sale made goes directly to the filmmaker.

What support/services might a filmmaker expect from your platform?
Full email technical support for uploading and preparing films; ability to sell their film on their own website and share it easily; live sales, views, and conversion statistics for filmmakers; integrated SEO on the IndieReign website; marketing, crowdfunding, and online sales articles on the IndieReign blog; crowdfunding partnerships for filmmakers using Indiegogo to increase exposure; free of charge marketing boosts for trending films on IndieReign.

What sets your product apart from all of the others?
Our main priority is increasing sales and marketing for filmmakers with no budget. We realise that we don’t make money unless the filmmakers do, so we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the site to increase user experience and up sales, while keeping the filmmaker’s cut as high as we can possibly make it. Filmmakers have full control of their film sales and marketing, they can set their own pricing, rental terms, and geo-blocking.

What is your business model?
IndieReign is a transactional marketplace. We provide both rental and download to own films to a global audience.

In which situations should a filmmaker select a do-it-yourself digital distributor?
When a film maker realizes that they want to get some kind of monetary return on their film. The old traditional distribution model is generally not an option for indie filmmakers, as only a tiny number get distribution. Digital distribution opens up a world of opportunities for filmmakers to directly sell their films to the communities that appreciate them.

There have been a lot of successful instances lately where higher end content is being produced especially for VOD. However, it does rely on the filmmaker to own the marketing end of things and be savvy around building anticipation and momentum for their film sales.

What are the biggest changes you expect to happen in the next few years that will affect a filmmaker’s digital distribution strategy?
Right now there’s a distinct issue between rising above the noise and filmmakers often not understanding the implications of self distribution and what platform they choose. It’s a tough market to crack, there are endless resources out there to help you through each financial step of the filmmaking process but it puts a huge amount of pressure on the filmmakers and producers to know what to do. We see a few changes shaking out, namely smarter tools to assist in automatic curation, more end to end services, and hopefully more emphasis on the way digital is impacting the film business in film schools. Producers must be more digitally aware and confident, VOD sites must offer a healthy community of film lovers (we put a huge emphasis on this), and most importantly, VOD sites need to be able to demonstrate the value that they bring to the table and work out a win/win situation for everyone.

MoPix

http://getmopix.com

What are the fees a filmmaker will typically pay to use your service, and what’s the filmmaker’s cut?
$149 setup fee, ongoing percentage of sales. Filmmaker cut runs between 10-20%. [We list the filmmaker's cut as 80% of net revenue.]

What support/services might a filmmaker expect from your platform?
MoPix is focused on self-service distribution. We offer an embeddable widget, sales through the MoPix iOS app, and sales through the MoPix marketplace.

Why should a filmmaker pick your service over all the others?
There are several key differences between our platform and others. First, our platform allows content creators to organize and price their content however they want within any given title. Each title can include multiple videos, image galleries, and PDF documents. This allows our users to add things like “extras” videos to a film, organize a workout title into multiple workout videos and programs, and add additional content later as separate purchases for the same title. Second, our focus is on enabling the content viewer access to their MoPix library on as many platforms and places as possible; for example, we currently offer web downloads and streaming, native iOS apps, and an embeddable widget that allows content creators to sell their content directly from their own website. More client platforms are coming in the future. Lastly, we’re focused not just on the wonderful independent films and filmmakers we support today, but also content of all types, such as exercise, travel, instructional and self-help videos. In the current digital market, we feel that this type of content has been woefully underserved, and we want anyone with content to have a viable way to digitally self distribute.

In which situations should a filmmaker select a do-it-yourself digital distributor?
When a filmmaker is looking to control rights, creative integrity or they have a niche genre film.

What is the biggest challenge that will affect a filmmaker’s digital distribution strategy?
Building an audience will remain the biggest challenge.

Pivotshare

http://pivotshare.com

What are the fees a filmmaker will typically pay to use your service, and what’s the filmmaker’s cut?
Filmmakers keep 70% of total sales with no starting or monthly fees.

What support/services might a filmmaker expect from your platform?
Pivotshare offers the greatest flexibility in terms of revenue models for filmmakers. Films can be offered as a pay-per-view rental, a purchased download, part of a monthly subscription, or any combination.

Pivotshare also offers a wide variety of services including secure payment processing and customer service, as well as a robust set of tools for social media integration and affiliate marketing.

What sets your product apart from all of the others?
There are several aspects to Pivotshare that set us apart in the market. First of all, out of the box we are the closest to a white-label option available. Instead of being a media aggregator that pushes our own brand, we want our customers and their brands to take center stage.

Our embeddable player has a clean and simple design that allows for in-video purchasing, removing the need for customers to leave a filmmaker’s site to complete the purchase process. This leads to fewer lost customers and greater overall revenue.

Unlike many other systems, Pivotshare channels allow filmmakers and even distributors to offer not only multiple projects, but an entire library of content. Films can be organized into different categories or gathered into related collections. Filmmakers can also offer their fans supplemental files that can be downloaded with a purchase of their film, such as behind-the-scenes-footage, deleted scenes, or even a poster image.

What is your business model?
Pivotshare retains 30% to cover bandwidth, storage, payment costs, encoding fees, customer service, security, and innovation.

In which situations should a filmmaker select a do-it-yourself digital distributor?
A do-it-yourself distribution model makes sense for filmmakers who hold the rights to their own projects and also have a clearly identified and focused audience. Since they usually do most of the heavy lifting in terms of promoting their own projects, we feel that filmmakers who can meet these criteria should also keep the lion’s share of the reward.

What are the biggest changes you expect to happen in the next few years that will affect a filmmaker’s digital distribution strategy?
We believe that direct distribution will become more viable for a wider variety of films in the near future thanks to advances in audience discovery and development. Currently, direct distribution relies heavily on the filmmaker’s ability to spread the word about their film to a social audience that they have built prior to release. We think that in the future, better tools will exist to help third parties find and recommend videos for the benefit of the filmmakers. Essentially, the marketing power that was once proprietary to distributors and studios will be shift to the filmmakers themselves.

Reelhouse

http://reelhouse.org

What are the fees a filmmaker will typically pay to use your service, and what’s the filmmaker’s cut?
Our revenue split gives creators 94% of their earnings, before PayPal transaction fees (depending on your account with them).

What support/services might a filmmaker expect from your platform?
We are a self-distribution platform, meaning that the creator ultimately drives the boat in terms of outreach hustle. That being said, our toolset of marketing and exposure tools helps filmmakers tell their stories in a socially robust, media rich environment. We also provide our filmmakers with a ‘best practices’ guide to setting up their page and preparing for a digital release. Additionally, we promote our favorite projects through our curated destination homepage, blog, and social channels.

Why should a filmmaker pick your service over all the others?
Several reasons. Firstly, we pride ourselves in being the easier to use site. Our usability makes it a deadly simple process to get distributing within moments; for viewers, a beautiful hassle free way to access and dive into your stories. We are also unique in the sense that we’re not just a content delivery platform. We firmly believe in the value-added experience of film and the world of a story.

Each film on Reelhouse is capable of hosting everything from digital downloads, blog updates, photos, physical merchandise fulfillment, support funding, filmmaker controlled customization and a series of social tools to boot. We’re also a destination site. People visit Reelhouse, knowing that the curated content here will be compelling, inspiring, and rich in immersive experiences and provide them with tools to follow the activities of curators, films, filmmakers or activities of fellow viewers. Lastly, we’re free! Aside from our transaction cost, we don’t charge large upfront costs like some of our competitors to get started in reaching your fans.

What is your business model?
We’re focussing on our first two business models: The first being that we take a 6% transaction fee, and we feel that’s fair for providing the platform. So if you sell merchandise, digital downloads, etc., we take a 6% cut of sales. And then what we’re rolling out soon are the Pro Accounts, you’ll get more metrics reporting and richer analytics on your page, more customization options, more memory. Also coming is an Enterprise account where various collectives and brands can stage their brand in a way that’s more robust for people who have a lot of content.

In which situations should a filmmaker select a do-it-yourself digital distributor?
Today, all films eventually become available online. With more and more audiences turning to the internet to find them- it’s a fantastic opportunity for all types of filmmakers to consider self-distribution. By creating rich, unique and accessible destination for your films, viewers will easily be able to watch the film in an immersive experience, tailored specifically to your story. The key to self-distribution is your audience. Already have a following from a Kickstarter campaign or from previous work? Awesome, you’re a sure fit- what are you waiting for? Otherwise, we try to continuously release new features to help you attract, grow and retain your fanbase- your most important asset as a filmmaker or studio. The other key component is realizing that self-distribution doesn’t necessarily mean turning down a traditional distribution deal. More and more films are weaving their own distribution into the traditional deals.

What are the biggest changes you expect to happen in the next few years that will affect a filmmaker’s digital distribution strategy?
The biggest change that film faces is the question of ownership versus access. That is whether people will still see the value in purchasing/owning films or will be satisfied with renting or even a subscription model like Netflix. Talking about economy, if the latter is the case we will see a drastic change in the average budget of a feature film. The other is the medium itself. People have long talked about transmedia, second screen experiences etc., but those have yet to really catch on. We think that there are massive opportunities for immersiveness, but can’t say much more as we’ve got a bunch of secret plans up our sleeves.

For now, we’re concentrating on the fact that with the advent of digital distribution, films have for too long been treated as commodities. There’s such a rich and passionate experience when you connect with a film you love and we’ll continuously dedicate our vision and resources to making the experience more interactive, supportive, immersive, social and unique.

Vimeo On Demand

http://www.vimeo.com/ondemand

In March 2013, we talked with Vimeo about the launch of their new self-distribution service in greater length. Read the post about Vimeo on Demand »

Get more documentary film news and features: Subscribe to POV’s blog, like POV on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @povdocs!

Sean Holmquest
Sean Holmquest
Sean started as an intern with POV in 2009, before coming on-board as a staff member starting in 2010 until 2013. At POV, he managed online video content, produced companion features for the POV film websites, and implemented social media strategies. Prior to joining POV in 2010, he freelanced as a film editor and writer, in addition to working as an assistant for an independent music artist. He has written and directed several short, experimental films, and holds a bachelor's degree from Brown University in Literary Arts.
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  • kakers

    Chill’s out of business as of Dec. 2013…

    Dear Chill Customers,

    This is a reminder that Chill will be shutting down permanently on December 15 at 5:00PM Pacific Time.

    Please be sure to download your purchases by logging into your Chill account with the email address you used when purchasing a video. Your downloads can be found in the Purchases tab located in the top left.

    We enjoyed connecting you to your favorite creators, and we’re sad to see it end. It’s been an incredible journey and we are grateful to you for embarking on it with us.

    Sincerely,

    Team Chill

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  • http://blog.indiereign.com/ Annabelle_NZ

    Hey! Don’t forget IndieReign! :) (www.indiereign.com)

    • interactive

      Thank you for letting us know. We are currently looking into including IndieReign on this list.

      • http://blog.indiereign.com/ Annabelle_NZ

        Thank you very much :)

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  • Mateo M. Luke

    Thank you guys! Excellent and very much needed! God bless.

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