DIY distribution platform VHX made a big move at SXSW this week when it opened its digital doors to the public, allowing any content creator to sell direct to fans at low cost. The start-up founded in 2011 by Jamie Wilkinson and Casey Pugh had been in private beta for two years building a library of over 300 select titles from indie filmmakers and film companies including Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me, and Oscar nominated docu The Act of Killing. Unlike video distribution storefronts like Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes, VHX offers technology that allows makers to sell content direct to fans via high quality streaming or DRM-free download at price points of their choosing, on their own websites. That means flinging the gates wide open to any and all content. “The goal is to close the gap between interest and availability,” VHX co-founder Wilkinson told me in Austin. Most digital distributors are selective in their content deals but VHX is a facilitator, not a gatekeeper of content.
VHX is one of a handful of rising DIY distribution companies offering content creators an alternative to aggregators by cutting out the middleman, dramatically changing traditional distribution models, territorial rights, and release windows – not just the means of delivery. “Traditional distribution thinking is that the world is chunked up into borders and information does not cross these borders, but the internet has changed all that,” said Wilkinson. VHX allows users to geofilter content by region but recommends they offer worldwide releases for maximum exposure. More than half of VHX sales come from outside the U.S. from consumers who don’t want to wait for a film to expand to their region or hit home video. “When you’re marketing or at a premiere in the U.S., people hear about it and there’s demand all over the world. We see tons of successful pre-orders because of that – there’s demand and people are Googling the film and they want to take some kind of action. You might as well offer it for purchase.”