Magazine article Screen International

Look beyond Amazon, Netflix, Says Digital Rights Guru

Magazine article Screen International

Look beyond Amazon, Netflix, Says Digital Rights Guru

Article excerpt

Tallinn panel looks at changing landscape of online distribution.

Rights holders need to look beyond big streaming players Netflix and Amazon to maximise returns from the burgeoning digital market, digital acquisition and distribution strategist Wendy Bernfeld of Rights Stuff told a panel at the Tallinn Black Nights Festival on Friday.

“A lot of film-makers are driving to get a deal with Netflix or Amazon. It’s become the Holy Grail, whereas ironically it’s a different time for them,” said Bernfeld.

“Just when the industry has started to embrace them, they’re less focused on individual smaller indie films and docs and are more into original production of big series. That Holy Grail deal is increasingly rare, particularly with Netflix.”

“Netflix are buying less library in bulk. They’re focused on first-run and Originals so you may see a flow of press releases announcing Originals, particularly as they strengthen offerings in foreign language regions but they’re not out at festivals picking up fifty titles from smaller indies.”

Amazon was still in the market for film festival fare, she noted, and earlier this year at Tribeca and SXSW had started securing major festival titles through its Film Festival Stars Program, offering first up to $100,000 plus royalties, then doubling that by Toronto, to titles in Official Selection in return for exclusive SVoD rights.

“Some film-makers are just grabbing that and other film-makers are playing off what other deals they can get, particularly in international.”

New players

Bernfeld advised film-makers, producers and sales agents to focus on the new digital and hybrid players that are starting to emerge, particularly those paying flat fees and those stepping up to Originals funding.

“It’s more important to focus on who is out there competing head-on or complementing. There are all these other buyers and funders you can go to in addition to, or instead of just the big players. They are not the only game in town anymore.”

“The philosophy has shifted. Now there are a bunch of local competitors that are springing up.”

She noted that a wave of regional players was now coming to the fore, including local broadcasters starting SVoD operations, as well as telecom and cable offerings. …

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