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.” Read More »
Effective this month, Hollywood studios will package digital film and television content under the standard “Digital” or “Digital HD” brand, trade org Digital Entertainment Group announced today. The distinction applies to non-physical filmed media with the “Digital” or “Digital HD” branding to appear on DVD and Blu-ray packaging, digital downloads, advertising, social media and publicity campaigns, and merchandising as well as in the UltraViolet brand for participating studios. “Digital HD (or Digital) is a dynamic and direct approach aimed at consumers who want movies and television shows that they can access on their favorite devices,” said DEG President Amy Jo Smith in a statement. “Whether they access the DIGITAL HD version as part of a Blu-ray purchase or as transaction through a digital store, we believe this terminology will help them understand they are getting an exciting, versatile product that heightens their home entertainment experience.” Anchor Bay Entertainment, HBO Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have agreed to participate in the initiative.
BitTorrent announced today that its Bundle project will hit its next phase on September 24, when approved creators can start building their own DIY distribution campaigns on the new publishing platform. The program, still in alpha testing, eventually will allow creators to charge or collect data from users using pay gates and/or social media gates. In recent months BitTorrent’s first wave of handpicked and curated Bundle initiatives began with film and music partners like Kaskade/Ultra Music, Berklee Online (Berklee College of Music), Public Enemy, The Pixies, Corey Taylor, Jet Life, Cinedigm, Converge Studios, Fly or Die, Linkin Park, and Mickey Hart. The company says 18 million downloads have come from just 10 Bundle campaigns since May; nearly 50 percent of Bundle activity is filmed content, while BitTorrent claims a network of 170 million users. BitTorrent is experimenting with 4K content sharing, as it did recently when musician Mickey Hart released a 2-hour, 4K 268 GB concert footage feature via BitTorrent Bundle. “It’s on our roadmap,” says BitTorrent’s Christian Averill. “Nobody else is doing 4K file sharing publicly right now.”
Related: BitTorrent Offers First ‘Gated Torrent’ For Content Creators
BitTorrent seems an unlikely ally for content creators given its past association with online piracy. But the file sharing site today unveiled yet another tool designed to help media makers to connect with fans – and profit from it. Its latest initiative, the BitTorrent Bundle, introduces a “gated” multimedia torrent designed to boost engagement within its 170 million-strong user base. The format allows creators to put content on offer on BitTorrent, add supplemental multimedia content of any file format or size, and set parameters for how fans can access the bonus materials, potentially via email gate, donation, or pay gate. BitTorrent’s Bundle launches in alpha with EDM music label Ultra Music but the company hopes film and TV creators take advantage of the program as an option for digital distribution. Bundle’s gated torrent could be unlocked, for example, by driving fans to Netflix, iTunes, a movie theater, or a Facebook page for a like. The file sharing site got a huge response last month when it partnered with Cinedigm to release the first seven minutes of Arthur Newman free to BitTorrent users, even if the experiment was more of a success for BitTorrent than for the film. The promo had 1.4 million downloads with 150,000 of those downloaders subsequently visiting the movie’s website for more information.
The new Miramax continues to make digital deals for its movies. Today, the company announced a multiyear agreement with Hulu that will make its films available on the ad-supported streaming service, as well as to subscribers at Hulu Plus. The news comes a couple of weeks after Miramax made a deal with Netflix, a first for its fare on a digital subscription service. “Making our films available via premium digital distribution channels is extremely important to Miramax,” said Mike Lang, CEO of Miramax. “Hulu has established its presence in the market as a leader in innovation and in delivering value for consumers and content owners.” The studio has been stepping up its efforts in digital distribution, recently bringing in TV industry veterans Lindsay Gardner and Bob Cook as strategic advisers to help guide that initiative among others.