Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hat Tip to Cinematech

Scott Kirsner has two posts up over on Cinematech that really illuminates several "problems" (read: opportunities for entrepreneurial types) we are having with content on the web. Even with the breakthrough numbers and press provided by Joss Whedon and Dr. Horrible, we are still running into a brick wall of indifference or cluelessness when it comes to developing original web programming at the studio level.

(Edit to clarify: I say that regarding Warner Bros. only. I like what Sonly TV is doing with ANGEL OF DEATH, and I've been a big fan of Paramount's releasing JACKASS online. It's just that Warners has a lot of material to work with and for them to be seemingly indifferent is disconcerting)

For example, this post regarding Warner Brothers:

"What's most interesting about the article is that Warner Bros. executives either aren't talking much about creating original content for the Internet ... the reporter didn't ask ... or the info simply didn't wind up in the story.

Instead, it sounds like Warner Bros. is mainly focused on using the Internet to distribute movies and TV shows. They're also a bit obsessed, like all studios, with stopping digital piracy."

Scott goes on to document the fits and starts of Warner's web initiatives (starting two years ago - do you realize how many that is in corporate dog years?!) like Studio 2.0.

So, Warners is more interested in leveraging properties they own than creating new content. Okay. Fine. But...

What's interesting to me, is that a division of Warner Bros. - WB Television holds some of the rights (with SURVIVOR creator / Exec Producer Mark Burnett) to GLOBAL FREQUENCY - a show that - quite frankly - should be made for the web. And yet no one has thought to ramp it up and bring in all of the product placement and corporate tie ins to make the show a reality. I've always thought that GF should have a reality tv vibe to it - handheld camera, POV shots, Security Cam shots, a rock and roll score (a William Orbit mix, natch), and incredible tie ins like actual phone calls to people who sign up as "agents" of the GF.

One big frikkin ARG webserial that could mix actual news footage into the storylines, etc...

Is anyone there at WB listening? Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyway, Scott rightly wraps up his WB post with the following, which will mean something to all of you who sleep with your DVX-100 under your pillow and Final Draft on your hard drive:

"What about new ways of creating content? While 'The Dark Knight' is going to be one of the biggest big-budget hits of all time, there must be ways of telling stories for the Web and mobile devices that don't require a $185 million up-front investment (and that's before marketing).


If Warner Bros.' top execs aren't thinking hard about that opportunity, I'd say that leaves a pretty big opening for independent content creators, wouldn't you?"

You would think so, but...

For the one-two punch, Scott writes about how it's hard to get a film onto Itunes if you're a filmmaker:

"So how do you get your movie sold on iTunes?

It’s not easy, and Apple doesn’t make things any easier by supplying absolutely no official information to filmmakers who’d like to sell their work on iTunes. (By contrast, here’s CreateSpace’s crystal clear explanation of how to sell your work on Amazon Unbox – the best non-iTunes option that exists today.)

Here’s the scoop: Apple’s strategy thus far has been to only work with aggregators, or services that will collect a number of indie films and then deliver them to iTunes. They don’t want to work directly with filmmakers. But there is no aggregator yet that will take just any finished film and deliver it to iTunes, in the same way CreateSpace (which is owned by Amazon) will take any finished film and sell it on Amazon Unbox."

To put my indie perspective on this, I have to say it has ALWAYS been hard to sell one film to a buyer like Itunes (although not technically a buyer they act as a network) or even for a foreign territory. Many buyers buy movies in blocks - for exactly the same reason you would think, it's cheaper that way. Ive seen several cases where the distributor had only a few films to sell and it wasn't enough. See, it takes as much paperwork to buy five or fifteen films as it does to buy one - so why buy the one?

The trick for distributors will be (as their role in the process changes) to become packagers of movies - even more than they are now. Scott lists the people he knows who have "cracked" Itunes, but I think their will be more. I also think that there will be several services which will catch up (Unbox, Netflix, CinemaNow), but let's face the fact that 50,000 video downloads a day is a pretty impressive figure and Itunes is in the lead.

It makes a ton of sense for distributors to approach Itunes with movie packages and filmmakers to become part of those packages. The thing is - with number tracking of downloads, filmmakers will run less chance of getting screwed in the deals.

To recap:

- Some of the big studios aren't sure of what to do when it comes to the web and developing original content. That means opportunity for indie guys.

- Itunes is now a gatekeeper when it comes to generating revenue online. You would do well to partner with other filmmakers or distributors who have developed a relationship with Itunes.

I am now going to get some more coffee, and read the rest of my Sunday Morning news before getting to work.

1 comment:

Roger Alford said...

Mucho thanks for this post, Bill. Getting our work onto iTunes is the big hurdle, as I see it. When that day comes, a major wall will have been toppled. A big thanks, too, to Kirsner for linking his 2005 article. I'd forgotten to bookmark it and hadn't been able to find it again.