With all these indie movies available I knew that getting my movie into these markets would probably be difficult. I had no idea how I was going to do it so I started making calls.
Netflix was the first one I wanted to land in. I couldn't find anything online that was useful, everything was a dead end. I even called the Netflix office and asked around a little. No one was helpful. It was obvious that their acquisitions office was not open to the public. So basically a dead end.
iTunes was next. I did similar research and found very little. Amazon had a thing they call createspace where you can self publish books and sell your own DVDs, but it wasn't the major market that I wanted to land in.
It felt like all the paths were blocked. When iTunes came out with it's ibook publisher system, I took a close look at it because I wanted to understand how to get content into iTunes even if it wasn't a movie. I knew previously that the path for indie movies was blocked but I found the specifics when I was digging around.
This is the big deal with iTunes so mark this down: iTunes only accepts movies in groups. Their documentation said that if you want to submit movies to be accepted into the iTunes library you have to submit them along with other movies. I thought, "no problem, how many." Their criteria is that you have to submit movies in groups of 5. Five movies can be submitted but have to be THEATRICAL RELEASED! HOLY CRAP! So even a small studio that got lucky enough to have 5 titles to submit to iTunes couldn't do it directly unless they played in theaters. So that road was out as well. As I read on I realized that there was an option for non-theatrical released films as well. I breathed a sigh of relief. The criteria to submit non-theatrical released movies was simple enough, you have to submit them in groups of 100. HOLY CRAP! So you'd have to have 100 indie films to even be considered.
Before you go badmouthing iTunes think about their motives here. Obviously what iTunes is doing here is making sure iTunes doesn't turn into youtube, where anyone can post any crap they want anytime. Their idea is good, they have protect their content or people will stop looking at iTunes for movies.
I couldn't find any information like this on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon on demand but I assumed it must be similar. The other thing about iTunes submission process is that it's fairly detailed and somewhat complicated.
At this point you need to know about aggregators. Since these movie distribution companies have such complicated systems and submission processes, it requires a middleman. This is where the aggregators come in. A middle man type company will acquire hundreds of movies, comply with all the submission regulations and submit the film for you along with the host of other films they have acquired. This is how they get past the 100 film rule for iTunes and whatever rules that netflix and the others have.
Indifferent Worlds Trailer
So there are a number of independent distributors out there. The first one I got connected with was called indieflix.com. They are an avenue that some have used to get into iTunes. indieflix is a independent film sales platform. So if you want to sell your movie online, indieflix is a pretty good place to start. They have a good platform that works. The problem though is that not all their content gets into iTunes, intact I don't know anything about using indieflix for iTunes input.
Obviously I needed to find an aggregator or a distributor. I looked around for a while and learned a little bit about how many of them work. What most do, is acquire your film, they promote it, then whatever revenue your film makes they take a large cut of it. This is not a bad model but it kind of bothered me because my film was a documentary and I knew it wasn't going to make a lot of money. Secondly these distributors are looking for films that they can make money on, so they may or may not accept your film.
iTunes gives a 70/30 split meaning the filmmaker gets 70%. Hulu splits the ad revenue 50/50. Amazon does 50/50 without whatever they make. Netflix is a little different. You tend to make less on Netflix if your movie has very little draw. The way Netflix works is to do a 1 or 2 year blanket license. This means they can play it as many times as they want and not have to pay more or less. This is both why they don't have all the latest films, and why they may not want yours. They want to attract the best titles they can for their money.
So if you connect with an aggregator or a distributor, you will be giving up a portion of the money you make to the distributor if you get a traditional aggregator.
So here's what I did. I had used indiegogo.com a few months before to raise some of the funds. I came across a company that had been bought by indiegogo.com and was an aggregator for iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, along with a number of networks for cable and on demand content. It was called distribber, distribber.com
They operate differently than the average distributor. They don't take any of your sales revenue. They will put your film in an aggregation pile up for which ever of their platforms you choose. They will charge you a one time fee to get it into the platform. If the platform doesn't accept your film you get that money back.
So I submitted to them and paid the fee and got excepted to iTunes, Hulu, and Amazon. Netflix did not want the film. They didn't give a reason but I assume it's because it didn't have enough of an audience draw.
The fees were pretty steep. If you're going to do it you need to think through a few things. If you go with a traditional distributor, they generally promote your film because they stand to benefit if it's audience grows. With a company like distribber, they do not do any advertising for you. It's all on your shoulders to get the word out. It's hard to explain how hard this is.
Because I think it's valuable to give the whole picture, I lost money on this documentary. The fees were around $1295 or something like that. I've made $74 on iTunes so far. This is because I'm a crappy crappy promotions person. I suck at promoting a film. In fact I almost refuse to do it. It's mainly because what drives me is making films not trying to sell people on watching them. By the time the film is up and available, I'm off looking for another project to shoot. It's been a fairly bad investment. Secondly, distribber has told me that Hulu and Amazon have accepted the film and they will be available there soon, but as far as I can tell they are still not up.
Over all it was simple and easy. If you know you will be able to promote, or you have an advertising budget this would be a great investment. you just have to know that you will get that money back. If you're not sure you sell at least 1500 views on iTunes, you should aim at going with a traditional aggregator.
Apparently there is another kid on the block that charges a little less called tune core. I can't say much about them cause I've never used them.
My Movie on iTunes
Here is another article on this subject.
Here is distribber.com
Here is tunecore.com