New (Potential) Distribution Opportunities

Ok, I’ll take a little break from talking about post-production, and discuss a little bit about what happens afterwards. Scott Kirsner recently posted his notes from last week’s meeting of the Institute for International Film Financing, a group which matches investors and filmmakers, and also researches new marketing and distribution opportunities. Cited in this meeting were a number of new developments and experimental technologies that could be specifically advantageous for independent films.

There are a number of internet-based sales and rental outlets, new HD cable channels, and portable media devices which are changing the way that audiences watch films. MoDV sells SD cards containing compressed movies to be watched on PDAs, cell phones, and compatible media players. Tivo and other cable PVR companies are setting up video-on-demand systems. NetFlix is looking into a download-based rental scheme. All of these new options will have serious ramifications for filmmakers, but the big battle will, as usual, probably be between Apple and Microsoft.

Apple has scored a tremendous advantage with their new Video iPod. For the last few years they’ve made themselves the largest online distributor of movie trailers while building their iTunes Music Store. Now with a dedicated video player and a few downloadable TV shows (update: as of this morning there are new shows available), they’re the first on the block. But the viPod isn’t the most comfortable movie-watching machine, and Microsoft just released the Xbox 360 as the ultimate, all-in-one, HDTV, surround-sound, living room entertainment system. There isn’t a highly successful media store behind it yet, but XBox Live subscribers can already download HD movie trailers and music videos.

Then there is Sony. Sony is in a unique position. Not only do they have the upcoming Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable to compete with the XBox and viPod, they also own a huge amount of their own content as a film distribution company and a record label. They’re coming in late in the game, but they’re also providing the Blu-Ray DVD technology that Microsoft plans on using in the future. It’s a tough game to call, at this point. Check the archives of CinemaTech for more information on all the complex factors.