Vimeo: Self-Distribution Platform for Filmmakers?

March 15th, 2013 by

Vimeo made a potentially significant announcement this week. From IndieWire:

At SXSW today, Vimeo’s announced the launch of an open self-distribution service that will allow filmmakers and other video creators to sell their work directly via rental or download, and to keep 90% of the revenue after transaction costs (PayPal and credit card fees).

Vimeo On Demand is available now to all Vimeo PRO members, and allows them to choose their price point, select country-by-country availability, customize the design of their page and sell via Vimeo or their own site.

A video explaining the initiative:

An excerpt from an interview with Vimeo VP of Creative Development Blake Whitman:

Was allowing filmmakers to sell their work always part of the plan for Vimeo?

I think it’s a natural progression — we’ve been a platform for video creators to share and distribute their work. Distribution has different meanings for different people — and for filmmakers that means actually selling and seeing revenue for work that they’re making. Vimeo on Demand, that’s the next step of self-distribution. We make tools for individual creators — how can we help them make money for what they do? We think we’re in a great place now with the platform we’ve created and the audience that we built to really take a step into that arena and hopefully help filmmakers all over the world.

Who are your competitors in the space? YouTube has an offering [YouTube Rentals, which is still in beta].

What’s different from YouTube is that ours is completely open, so anyone with a Vimeo PRO account can create a VOD page, sell their work, choose their price, choose the regions they want to offer and the time that it will be available, make it look beautiful, then push a button that says “publish”… and it’s open to the world. That totally open flexible platform is what makes Vimeo unique. Vimeo PRO is an offering for creators for all part of the workflow, so if we close the circle for their video needs, then we’re doing a good job — this is another step in that direction.

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Do you see this service as something that’ll also be used by companies? Maybe a small distributor?

The split is intriguing for a lot of people. We’re already talking with distributors — the cool thing for distributors and even film festivals is they can then become curators. Festivals have a big incentive to get their films out to the world — so, they can become curators on our platform and sell work they are involved in or have some sort of deal with. It’s disruptive in the fact that it’s totally open, but it’s not a game-ender for any of the other parts in the industry.

Vimeo has its place, and it’s opening up a little bit to more professional film content, which we expected we would get to anyway — the technology’s caught up to where you can stream a two-hour movie and it’s fine. We’ve been partnering with TV manufacturers to have our apps on Apple TV or Vizio and Samsung, so when you purchase this content, you can actually watch it on the big screen at home, it doesn’t just have to be on your monitor. Anytime someone purchases a video, it goes into your “Watch Later” queue so you can automatically watch it when you get home.

I’d imagine most people will find videos via the creator, but how else will someone on the site be able to browse and find their way to films they might not know about?

We’re going to editorialize content as well. We do for Staff Picks — that’s our channel for featured short form work. We feature long form work there too, anything that’s free. We’re going to have a directory and search and discoverability through our Vimeo On Demand page, but the other great thing is that Vimeo is a giant organic recommendation system based on other people like. Our like button in our player is persistent, and VOD is integrated into that. Another aspect that sets Vimeo On Demand apart from iTunes and Amazon is that you have this built-in audience talking to each other and recommending things to each other that’s contextual to what you like and the people that you know and connect with. We’ve been focused for so long on tools for creators, now we’re starting to venture into tools and a platform for viewers, which is a byproduct of the former. We have 100 million people coming to Vimeo, how do we galvanize and fit that into the fabric of the site? We have a little bit to figure out, but social discovery is going to be really big.

There are basically six parts to filmmaking: Financing, Writing, Production, Post-Production, Marketing, Distribution. With a few thousand dollars, anybody can own a copy of a screenwriting software, an HD digital videocamera, and editing system, so making a movie is no longer an issue. It’s the last two parts where the cinematic rubber meets the road.

Is this new Vimeo offering a panacea for indie filmmakers? Perhaps for distribution but still it boils down to eyeballs seeing your movie and paying for that right. So how will Vimeo create enough of a pull to get consumers to think: Indie movies online = Vimeo?

We shall see.

For more of the interview with Whitman, go here.

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