How New Digital Distribution Options Might Impact Your Film's Release Strategy

We live in interesting times when it comes to content creation and distribution.  Whether it's movies being simultaneously released for a fee and free, or using web apps for content delivery, creators are experimenting with ways in which they can maximize both exposure for their films as well as returns for their investors.  Amanda Lin Costa gives an overview of some of the main new types of digital distribution, from iTunes to VOD, and the experience filmmakers have had with them -- both the good and the bad.  Great food for thought for anyone considering their project's digital distribution options:

Among the projects highlighted are the Polish brothers' For Lover's Only (a HDSLR no-budget success story) and PressPausePlay -- which in addition to playing festivals and being available to buy on iTunes and rent on Amazon was put out in full, for free, on Vimeo last month:

The result?

Marthinsen [...] believes that the hype they received in January on Vimeo increased their earnings on iTunes. Just last week, the documentary was the 46th most rented/sold film on iTunes. The positive word of mouth on Vimeo also helps boost their IMDB rating, which he believes in turn helps sell more on iTunes.

But as the Polish brothers found out, there are also challenges that come with bypassing traditional theatrical distribution:

"We were considering a small theatrical run just to qualify for the Independent Spirit Awards," he said. [...] "The disturbing fact is we couldn't find theater space that didn't cost us a fortune. Hopefully, award qualification will adapt to the digital age."

Of course, with new services like Tugg coming on-line, it just goes to show how quickly the independent distribution landscape continues to morph.  Perhaps if Tugg had been available to the Polish brothers last year they could have leveraged all the great word of mouth they had generated on Twitter to book a few theaters  at little to no additional out-of-pocket expense.

Now that's pretty cool.

For more, check out the full article at PBS MediaShift.  Are you weighing the pros and cons of different digital distribution strategies?  Share your thoughts below!

[via FilmmakerIQ]

Your Comment


To me digital distribution is the best way to distribute independent films. Theatrical distribution may cost a fortune with no guarantee for success. After some attempts for theatrical distribution in my country (Bulgaria) my documentary - Dangerous Games is on Prescreen now and my intention is to put it on more platforms like Egg UP, Amazon, iTunes.

February 28, 2012 at 8:02AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


i heard apple rapes you on profit when you distribute through itunes, whether by yourself or through an aggregator

February 28, 2012 at 11:25AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

John Jeffreys

They take 30% right? Pretty standard... Though an aggregator will probably take a cut on top of that.

February 28, 2012 at 12:14PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

I don't think rape is the right word. Itunes has the largest client base and best service of any digital download company. You should have to profit share to use that well-built network.

February 28, 2012 at 12:27PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


id much rather have my shit on netflix; its on virtually every screen (mobile, computer, newer tv's, consoles, etc) and im pretty sure the viewer count of netflix far outweighs that of itunes. evidence is purely anecdotal, but almost everybody i know uses netflix and not itunes

i dont know much about their cut/profit requirements though

February 28, 2012 at 1:40PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

You voted '+1'.
John Jeffreys

While it is somewhat difficult to get films on iTunes and Netflix - next to impossible if you don't have some sort of distributor working on your behalf, or a pay service (like Distribber who takes nothing but a fee) - iTunes is by far the better deal. Netflix pays a license fee for your film for a certain amount of time, typically a year or two, and that's it. No matter how many times your film is viewed you don't get a single cent above what they've already paid you. So while Netflix might get you a decent amount of exposure, if you don't get a favorable deal with them (theatrical release will help that) then you're out of luck, and they honestly don't care either way. At least iTunes can get you exposure while also providing a constant stream of revenue - and the 70/30 split is fair when you consider the additional exposure that having millions upon millions of Apple devices can give you. No reason you couldn't try to be on both - but you have to consider what you'd lose by being on Netflix alone.

February 28, 2012 at 1:58PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

i just checked out distribber...thanks for the tip. it seems expensive but it also seems like a super easy fun way to get my film out there and potentially making money quickly....

February 28, 2012 at 2:52PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

John Jeffreys

Man, it would be interesting to read a feature article about Indie producers that have turned to services like Distribber to get their work distributed. The things I wonder mostly about is the following:

- is there any Indie producers out there that have managed to get their work on these platforms (Amazon, iTunes, Netflix etc...), and if so - have they turned any profit.
- How does said profit correlate with their marketing budget and strategy
- What do these indie producers/companies think is (or isn't) a viable business strategy

I don't care that much about transparency as long as the numbers are correct. Which means that if there's a production company that would be willing to give us the information but not their identity, would be more than fine with me. I'd imagine that if I was running a business in peril I wouldn't be too eager to make that information public so that I can become 'that example' of how not to do things.

But still, errors and experimentation is the way we learn.

March 1, 2012 at 2:54AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Tugg has been working in Austin with "Local Live Event Screenings". Friends of mine run those events, and have explained a positive change where the LLES serve as a filter and curator for quality content. So as a filmmaker you can throw your content to your audience in a theatrical setting before/during/after the festival season. This keeps the buzz going and multiple look by distribution companies if you want to go that model.

March 1, 2012 at 3:16PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Distribution is changing and so is VOD. Movies don't need to go directly to theatres, DVD's or TV anymore. Distribution is becoming digital. It's why I started to rent movies from a site called Yekra allows filmmakers to set the prices for distribution and helps them make more money than a traditional distribution deal so that the filmmaker can go on to do what he/she loves most, making great films! Check out Yekra you will love what you see!

January 21, 2013 at 4:43PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I am looking for a Bulgarian distribution of my film. Can you help? I would offer 50% of the profit (if any).
You could watch the trailer by going to

Brief synopsis:

Ivan, a Bulgarian refugee, comes to America in
the glorious hippy years - “the flower generation”
of violent anti-war protesters, the “carpet” bombing
of Vietnam, the gathering of pot-smoking hippies,
the Kent State massacre, and the dancing Hare Krishna.
These create most of the comic situations involving Ivan.
This film is an amalgam of Eugene Ionesco, Boris Vian and Kafka.
And, in order to be “politically correct”, there is not
a single positive character. Funny and witty. Provocative
and controversial. An adult animation comedy: hilarious, grotesque and surrealistic…
definitely something out of the ordinary.

Please read the “Reviews” section at

Here is a digital download of my film The Bulgarian Prophet
username: download
password: themovie
Will be given a choice of four links. Please right click on the first one.

Yavor Batchev (

July 9, 2013 at 6:18PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


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September 27, 2013 at 12:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM