Making millions from your film on the internet, AKA Digital Distribution or DIY Distribution.

So you’ve made a film? Now you want to make money from it?

What’s that? You don’t have A-list Hollywood stars in the cast? Sir Elton John hasn’t done an original soundtrack for it? Well, I hate to break it to you; it’s going to be hard to get your film in the cinemas. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it’s hard. Very hard.

Did I hear somebody say DVD? Yes, that clunky old gadget that’s getting buried under all the other eternally connected-to-the-cloud gizmos under your TV. I would never say that only your grandma watches DVDs, I would only say you’re better off selling it online before you start thinking about securing a DVD deal.
Hold on, don’t rush off to upload it just yet – here’s a few things you need to know about digital distribution, or Video On Demand (VOD).

There’re different types of VODs, common amongst them are:

  • Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD):
Also known as pay-per-stream or download to rent/own.
  • Ad-supported Video On Demand (AVOD):
That’s where ads are placed before or during your film.
  • Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD):
Viewers subscribe to the service and pay monthly or yearly for the provider’s collection of films.

Then there are Aggregators; companies that negotiate on your behalf with the big boys like iTunes and Netflix. They’ll also arrange for you film to be encoded according to your chosen platform’s specifications.

However, there is a catch. There’s always a catch; basically different ways companies will take money from you. Yes, get used to it. But if you know what you’re doing you can choose the right platform for your film and not get ripped off. Let’s see what the different platforms have to offer.

iTunes icon





Viewers can either rent your film from iTunes, or purchase it.
iTunes will take 30% of whatever you make, after you pay an encoding fee. The encoding fee is paid to the Aggregator, the middle-man who charges for dealing with Apple on your behalf.
No, Apple does not want to deal with you directly, you have to go through an Aggregator.
You should go for iTunes because they have close to 600 million active users all over the world, that’s a huge user-base.
You shouldn’t go for iTunes because the encoding fee will probably put you in debt (It can be up to several thousand pounds), or if you don’t want to give them 30p out of every pound you make.
Use it if you have A-list Hollywood stars in the cast. Or if Sir Elton John did the soundtrack – otherwise it never gets featured on their main page and just gets lost under millions of other things and is hard for viewers to find unless they specifically search for it.

Netflix logo





Like LOVEfilm, NETFLIX is a subscription based service. They’ll charge you an upfront fee for rights to your film and own it for a number of years. The amount and time period vary on a film by film basis.
You should go for NETFLIX because of the prestige involved, the huge reach, and the fact that it plays on all devices.
You shouldn’t go for it because they could play it a billion times and still not pay you anything other than what you got to sell them your film. There’s an Aggregator involved in this too, so you have to pay them as well for getting your film encoded.
Use it if your film has done well in the festival circuit so you can take advantage of the heat & buzz.

Amazon Instand Video Logo






Subscription based service by Amazon. Most people don’t know that Amazon does this too, get used to it; Amazon does everything!

Amazon will take 50% of your revenue.
You should go for Amazon because there’s no set-up or encoding costs. You also get links on the IMDB website.
You shouldn’t go for it because you have NO control over what they charge for your content, it’s not available globally, and because 50% seems just a bit too much.
Use it only if you have no money, at least this way there’s no loss, and you can only gain, no matter how little.

Vimeo On Demand logo






Viewers either rent or purchase your film.
Vimeo will take 10% of your revenue.
You should go for it because there’s no middle-man involved, you get to keep 90% of the money, you can set your own price and geo-block it according to your needs, and because its device friendly and has a global presence.
You shouldn’t go for it because there’s a $200 annual Vimeo Pro fee that you need to pay to upload your content for this service, and that’s for 50GB, anything more and it’s an extra $200.
Use it because it’s quite flexible, but you have to really push it hard yourself with your marketing campaign.

YouTube icon





You can do Ad-supported, rental or purchase, or a subscription service with YouTube.
YouTube will take roughly 45% of your revenue – it varies user to user according to their Partner Program that you have to join.
You should go for it because there’s no set-up fee, and because YouTube is huge. You can also set your own prices for subscriptions and rental.
You shouldn’t go for it if 45% seems too high, or if you think you can’t get the thousands of hits/views you need to qualify for the Partnership Program. Also keep in mind that YouTube users aren’t used to paying for anything – you might have a hard time there.
Use it if you have quick turn-over with your content, like a series. It takes time to build up an audience on YouTube.

indieflix icon




INDIEFLIX is a subscription based service.

You are paid by the amount of minutes subscribers watch of your content.
You should go for it because there’s no middle-man, and because you’ll get money per minute for your film. You also get a small amount for each new subscriber you introduce to Indieflix. You have control over where you want to play it (geo-blocking), its device friendly, and it’s available globally.
You shouldn’t go for it if your film didn’t go to a festival – they probably won’t even take it unless it has. The subscriber base isn’t too big so there’s less exposure.
Use it with a mega social media campaign, or something that might go viral. You have to get minutes here, think repeat viewings.

This is it for part 1 of my DIY digital distribution piece, in part 2 we’ll take a look at the rapidly changing world of Travelling VOD Players and what they can do for you.

Vasi Hasan

November 22, 2013