The New Age of Distribution

Regarding distribution, everything has changed and continues to change. The entertainment landscape is vastly different than it was was just a few years ago. The Hollywood business models that worked for years now don’t work like they used to. The Internet changed everything.

The internet created two key paradigm shifts when it comes to media consumption: instant and free.


No longer do I need to hop in my car, drive down to the local DVD rental store, pick out a movie, drive back home, pop it into my DVD player, sit back down into my recliner and press play. That could take half an hour, at best.

No, today is different. Here’s what I did last night. While sitting in my recliner, I pulled out my iPhone and browsed some movie selections on Netflix. I found a show I wanted to watch, and moved it into my instant queue. Then, I turned on my HD Plasma screen and XBox, scrolled down to the new show and started watching it. 4 minutes. Never left the recliner. No extra charges for that show–just my monthly Netflix and XBox service.

Things are definitely different. DVD’s are dying. DVD rental stores are dying. Distribution as we know is changing.

I read an article yesterday about how media is being consumed with this new generation. It’s no longer the purchase of CDs and DVDs. It’s not even really the purchase and download of music of movies. Today, it’s all about streaming and media services.

What does that mean for indie filmmakers? Well, it’s a blessing and curse, a doubled-edged sword.

A blessing because anyone can tell a story. Equipment to make movies and tell stories is almost negligible. A few hundred dollars for a camera, a few hundred dollars for a computer, an Internet connection and a free YouTube account. It’s basic, but it’s possible. That’s a blessing.

The curse is that everyone and their dog and make a video and post it on YouTube. Everyone. That’s a lot junk out there. And, going the more traditional route (raise $2 million, make a movie, secure a sweet distribution deal) just doesn’t work any more. It’s way too hard to recoup money on indie films, unless of course, they are done really, really inexpensively. Then, there’s a shot.

The key is a well-told story. That’s what makes the difference. You’ve got to know your audience and you’ve got to focus on your audience. If you shoot for the masses, you’ll miss. But, if you focus on a niche, and know the audience of the niche, then you’ll hit your target. Avoid the shotgun approach, and go with a sniper rifle approach. Focus equals impact.


This is another paradigm created by the Internet. Everything is free. It’s not, but that’s the perception of those who use the Internet. Free searches, free music, free pictures, free everything. So, when music and movies were digitized, uploaded and shared, everyone just thought they would be free.

While the “instant” aspect of the Internet can probably be adapted to, this aspect of “free” is far more challenging because it takes money to create content.

So, what’s the answer? Immediately, industries started going after pirates using copyright law, and technology specialists tried creating better encryption, but that’s not going to solve the problem. Ever-changing technology will make it near impossible to digitally guard content, and it’s sad to say, but people won’t change. They will continue downloading pirated content.

Even with that, I still believe there is answer. No one has really found it yet, but there is a business model built around “free”. How much did you pay for your Google search this morning? Nothing. How much did you pay for the YouTube video you watched last night. Nothing. Yet, Google is one of the most profitable company in existence today.

Chirs Anderson of Wired Magazine just wrote a book called Free, the Future of a Radical Price. In his book, he describes this new economy of Free. There is a business model around free, but what that looks like for indie films hasn’t really been tapped yet.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009 at 10:37 am and is filed under distribution.
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