Project Specific, DRM-Free, Directly to Your Audience: Why VHX Could Be Your Next Distribution Platform
Slowly but surely outlets for online media distribution are blossoming -- with some major players finally rolling out monetization options and others already in place. We're starting to not only have the ability to self-distribute, but also pick what's best for us from among some healthy competition. One of the more recent developments in pro-creator content delivery systems (that's PCCDSs -- can that be a thing from now on?) is VHX distribution, not to be confused with VHS distribution, which is completely different. VHX originally began as a video sharing social media platform, which is very functional but still largely in its infancy. In addition to this service, however, VHX has already proven its potential for media monetization with its first two web releases -- both tailor-made for the client and DRM-free. Click through for the full low-down.
To be totally caught up with VHX's current phase, one must understand their original venture, illustrated well by this promo video:
VHX's community-based service isn't a content-hosting one in and of itself (again, that's the community-based service). Instead, it's a way to find and share videos with friends and subscribers within its own interface, or back and forth between all your favorite social media sites. Its interface is novel in that it's just plain more like the TV -- once you log in, video starts playing immediately, with consecutive clips automatically queued to play after. TechCrunch said that "the experience of watching videos [with VHX]... is pretty much the closest I’ve come to a non-fragmented [viewing] experience on the web." You can chose to let it play as its queued in the background of some other activity, or pick and choose clips to whatever degree you see fit.
The development team benefits from the leadership of Know Your Meme and Vimeo alumni (not to mention Boxee and the first web-only Emmy-winner). As of right now, VHX's community supports sharing only for videos sourced from YouTube and Vimeo, but development is ongoing and others will surely follow -- not to mention these sites are where plenty of videos live anyway, so it's not such a big deal at the moment. The most major reason we're interested in VHX, though, isn't their video sharing service, it's their video distribution service.
Following the success of projects like Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and the hugely successful DRM-free internet-only debut of comedian Louis C.K.'s Live at the Beacon Theater -- which totally eschewed conventional broadcasting as well as TV-safe bets like Hulu or Netflix, was offered directly from C.K. for $5, and turned massive profits -- it became clear to forward-thinking content creators that independent internet distribution was a financial viability. Given the direct link from creators to viewers, this model is actually preferable in some ways to traditional distro methods, save for the dollar-value risk inherent to it (Live at the Beacon Theater cost C.K. $200,000 to produce, direct, and custom-build its website).
This is the exact type of distribution VHX wants to offer such creators. Above is a screen-cap from the release site for Indie Game: The Movie, a documentary that premiered at Sundance and marked VHX's second such release. VHX customized both the distribution model and visual design for the filmmakers, offering viewership in DRM-free streaming or download after paying the $10 "ticket price." This is the angle on distribution VHX is taking presently: the site is open to submissions for any specific project desiring its release to be 'powered by' VHX -- once enough successful high-quality media has been released in this fashion, VHX plans to expand into an outright distribution platform.
Here's what one of the design team told Gigaom, with the following screen-cap illustrating the current layout (image courtesy Gigaom):
"We put the ‘Contact Us’ button front and center because it’s really about getting in touch with us," co-founder Jamie Wilkinson said via phone. "Long-term, [VHX is] about the democratization of the video distribution process, but for right now we're trying to make sure it's high-quality content we're putting out — working with selected filmmakers so we can give them the white glove treatment they need... Whatever a traditional distributor does, we want to do exactly the opposite."
As the Gigaom article points out, VHX's client-catered and conscientious attitude goes so far as to allow -- if not encourage -- media to be available on other platforms as well. Indie Game, for instance, is also readily available on Steam and iTunes for the same price listed above. Availability on Steam may not make half as much sense for any of our content, but given that Indie Game is a documentary about independent game development, this exemplifies VHX's present willingness to craft a client's custom distribution campaign back-to-front.
If all of this isn't enough to convince everyone that VHX is serious about their task and savvy with their practice -- remember that terrible VHS joke I made at the top of the post? Well, these guys even beat me to that.
What do you guys think about where VHX could go -- and the future of DRM-free self-distribution engines/platforms in general? I mean, could it actually be too good to be true? I hope not, but I'm interested to hear everyone's thoughts!
Link: VHX -- Website