07 December, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
One of the most interesting presentations held at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival's Baltic Event was the introduction of 4 new Video On Demand (VOD) services based in Europe and focusing on the alternative distribution of European cinema. The sessions focused on the profiles of the services, what kind of content they currently feature and plan to add in the coming months and how their business plans work vis a vis independent producers.
Moderated by John Dick of the Media Programme, the panel/presentation covered many interesting aspects of these new services, and how they will impact the distribution chain in general and European independent producers in particular. The first presentation was by Belanski Films, a new and innovative world sales and distribution company focused on internet based and digial media platforms. Livis Abus, Head of Film Partnership and Andrea Di Tonto, Marketing and Communications Strategies, described how they acquire rights for arthouse cinema titles and how they market their over 100 titles (including features, documentaries and short films). Alternating between a classic international sales strategy (selling to individual territory distributors) and providing film packages to VOD platforms and mobile technology outlets, the Hungarian company is straddling both the traditional and the innovative worlds of international film distribution. For more information on the company, visit their website: http://www.belanski.com
UniversCine is a French VOD company launched in 2001 and entirely owned by a consortium of 50 French independent producers and distributors. Bruno Atlan, Manager of Marketing and International Development for the Paris-based firm, described how the company aggregates VOD rights on feature films from internatonal independent film producers, distributors and rights holders with a combination of new releases and library titles in the back catalogue. The company distributes VOD rights to the major VOD distributors and operators in France. In addition, the company serves as an editor/publisher of a VOD platform of its own in the French market, specifically of French films. Supported by the Media Programme, UniversCine is in the process of replicating its VOD services in Belgium, with plans to broaden its umbrella and unique model to build a network of VOD platforms across Europe. For more information on the company, visit their website: http://www.universcine.com
Affiliated with Trust Film, the Danish production and distribution banner founded by filmmaker Lars Von Trier and others, Movieurope is a VOD portal for distribution of European films via the Filmmakers' Independent Digital Distribution (FIDD), a filmmaker based cooperative organization. FIDD is building the infrastructure that allows European producers and distributors to reach wider audiences via digital distribution. FIDD was founded in January 2005 and is currently co-owned by more than 160 leading European filmmakers from 14 EU countries. The company is dedicated to optiming the earning potential of European films by cutting out the middle men and allowing a more diverse group of films to reach audiences via the internet. The company also maintains a television channel in Denmark, further expanding its efforts to reach a larger public. The company works on a revenue sharing model that fairly divides profits to great advantage than current international distribution deals (for which filmmakers receive a much smaller percentage with much higher marketing costs deducated from potential profits). For more information on this initiative, visit their website: http://www.movieurope.com
Finally, Paul Lilje, Content Services Manager for Estonian telecommunications giant Elion, owned by AS Eesti Telekom, explained how VOD services are expanding on the digital television services it provides over 75,000 household in Estonia. In addition, the company own Estonia most popular internet portals, NETI and hot.ee. The company provides both household and business communications services that includes telephony, internet, data communication and digital television. It is expanding its digital television bundled packages to include a mix of VOD services, games and myTV solutions. The VOD service offers more than 800 Estonian and foreign movies, television series, music videos and free of charge conference lectures. For more information, visit their website: http://www.elion.ee
While the current world economic crisis may slow down the timeframes of expanded services, it is clear that these and other initiatives provide a necessary "shot-in-the-arm" for the international independent film community, providing extensive and less costly means to the distribution stream and allowing for audiences to find, share and enjoy a more diverse menu of offerings than is currently available in the theatrical marketplace and at the home video/dvd retail outlet. The potential for European and other international non-Hollywood films is tremendously exciting.