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Distrify Looks to Empower Indie Filmmakers with Internet-Based Self-Distribution Tools

Starting about three years ago I began brainstorming ideas for an internet-centric way of distributing independent films (as opposed to festivals, theaters, and DVDs). However, given I already run one web site, instead of pursuing these ideas in earnest I’ve spent the ensuing years working on getting a transmedia project and/or first feature off the ground (more on the latter soon — depending on your definition of “soon”). A year ago when taking a look at Dynamo Player, we saw the beginnings of what an independent video distribution widget would look like, and now newcomer Distrify has launched what looks to be a more feature-rich player. Several ideas I’ve kicked around (including an affiliate program) are implemented in Distrify:

We created Distrify so that whenever someone shares a movie, they are also sharing the online-shop where you can buy it. When someone watches a film trailer in the Distrify video player they can also pay to watch the full movie immediately, order a DVD, buy a download, or find out when they can see it in their local cinema. And if they really love the film, they can share the trailer – and the entire online shopping experience – with their friends. And everyone who shares with Distrify earns a cut of the profits.

Here’s the player in action:

And here’s a look at how the interface works for filmmakers (click “preview”):

Distrify is a two-man UK-based startup that seems to “get” it. Some features are more mature than others — I almost don’t want to mention the affiliate program because that was going to be the focus of my own distrify/distribber/diswhatever — but Distrify has some very nice features already built-in at launch. If you click “later” in the first video, for example, you can see that associated product purchases can be included right in the embed.


From what I can tell, Distrify currently takes 30% of every sale, which is roughly equivalent to iTunes and Amazon.1 For an independent service, this seems a tad high — with Apple, for example, you’re giving up a 30% cut in order to gain access to millions of potential customers already accustomed to purchasing media in iTunes. With an independent player/store like Distrify, however, the onus is on the filmmaker to direct the fanbase to (and convince them to use) the Distrify player, which will be new and unfamiliar to many. As the founders say on the site, “Distrify is for the new generation of filmmakers and distributors who are actively engaging with their audience using social media.” Well, if we’ve done all the work to convince someone to buy/rent our film, why cough up 30% for delivery of 1s and 0s, which costs next to nothing (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Paypal is taking a transaction fee on top of this)? At least on curated stores like iTunes you’re theoretically benefitting from discovery mechanisms — even something as simple as a “new releases” page is trafficked by thousands.

Nitpicks about the pricing structure aside, Distrify has a lot of nice features and is definitely a startup to keep an eye on. Over the next several years this space will grow and hopefully flourish…

Link: Distrify

[via Chris Jones]

  1. iTunes keeps 30%, while if you use CreateSpace to get your film on Amazon VOD, it’s a 50/50 split. If you are selling through another middle man/label/distributor, the percentage that you keep through either of these stores can be lower. But in terms of direct content sales, 30% seems to be the going rate. []

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  • 30%?

    Eh yeah, way too high.

    Its the going rate for established sites, but for a start-up its ridiculous. I was very interested until I read that 30% nonsense, and was immediately turned off. Very hubristic to put their new, unprove, untested, low awareness site on a par with Apples, price-wise.

    Bring ti down to 15% and get the numbers, rather than scaring off potential customers with too high a price range.

    15% – then we can talk.

    Conor

  • A tip for improving their interface: After you click on “watch now”, they ought to tell you how long the movie is, and perhaps rating/content information.

  • Thanks for the blog post. The important thing to remember about iTunes is that 99% of films won’t get listed on any featured-page in their store ever. The iTunes editors will never have heard of your film if you put it on iTunes via distribber, so iTunes is not a discovery platform. The only way someone might find your film is if they already know the title and are searching for it. And how are they going to know the title? They’ve probably seen the trailer online…. so…. you might as well use Distrify!

    Further, iTunes may offer a 30/70 split, but you’ve got to factor in that you’ve either paid Distribber an enormous amount of upfront cash or your distributor with the iTunes relationship is taking a hefty cut of the remaining 70%. Personally, I’d rather offer my audience (affiliates) a share of the revenue.

    • Totally agree about the affiliate revenue share. But what percentage of people will buy through iTunes — a proven store known to support hundreds of millions of iPhones, iPods, iPads, Apple TVs, etc. — versus what percentage would click “buy” in an unfamiliar Flash embed? I would bet the conversion rates are drastically different (in iTunes’ favor). In light of that, it’s harder to justify the same percentage.

      • The problem is related to discovery. Yes, a lot of people would happily click to buy your film on iTunes, but unless it’s on the iTunes home page or in the featured sections, they won’t find it. Most independent films depend on word-of-mouth, which you can’t get in iTunes.

        Oh, and by the way, Distrify works on iPhones, iPods, iPads and even Apple TV (via AirPlay). And our statistics indicate that people are more than happy to buy via the simple Distrify interface. For example, one filmmaker added his film yesterday and his conversion rate has been so high that it seems pretty much everyone who watches the trailer has bought the film.

  • shaun mcalister on 06.10.11 @ 3:28PM

    Personally, as an independent content creator – 30% would be worth it if there was a huge subscriber base like iTunes. Sure, people may not organically find it through the service, but it’s up to you to market your content to find an audience. With platforms like Facebook ads, finding an audience has never been easier. iTunes isn’t the greatest for discovery, but it’s the standard for purchasing media online – and people trust it.

    I’d really like to see them lower their prices & improve the look of their player. Ditch the Flash please, too.

  • If anyone interested we built an app called Mobile Muviez last years available on the iPad and iPhone, its available and we can upload your HD quality movies immediately. http://www.reandevou.com and http://www.mobilemuviez.com

    323.952.4995

  • MARK GEORGEFF on 06.10.11 @ 10:41PM

    30%?????

    What is it???? The whole point of the digital age and rev is to get rid of all these MOF middle people who are in it for nothing more than a vested financial interest!!! They’re same ones who’ve been NOT wanting the film in film business to go away because film processing and printing and everything connected with it is what has kept their pockets lined — and kept a lot of us out of the whole picture.

    I also thought in the digital age…all this digi technology is supposed to make everything much. much more open surce and affordable, which leads to democratization??? Keep 30%???

    Realy…

    What is that all about???
    And don’t tell me they got their costs to cover, because that’s plain b.s.
    They could easily charge 10 %, and still walk away in the profit.

    It’s called understanding economics and having a long term
    view of success in business as opposed to this over night crap.
    Really should check i.d.s at the door in the digital world.

  • Why no option to just “buy” the movie in order to “own” it digitally so you can access it anytime you want? See: Steam

    • Well yes, that’s exactly what my idea (which one day may exist) was. Digital purchases in general are going this direction, as evidenced by the forthcoming iTunes Match…