Are you wondering what are the most popular Video On Demand platform Providers? What the best options to sell your movie are? Recoup your time, your investment and hope to make a profit without giving the house away? You are not alone. We went through the exact same decision process for our award winning film, Dream Racer.
In this article:
- The short story of Dream Racer and the challenges of limited experience as film maker;
- The set back of dealing with the ‘No’ looking for pre-sales and TV Networks;
- Our experience working with worldwide film distributors and resellers;
- Making the hard choice of deciding to promote your own film;
- Using a secure Video on Demand platform to protect your film content and own your audience.
Related Article: How to Sell your Documentary Film
Our film Dream Racer did not have Hollywood actors in it, it was simply two unknown blokes with no film experience, just dreams. One being a racer wanting to document the massive effort it would take to raise the funds and participate in the toughest off-road race on earth. The other, a 9am-5pm adman dreaming of making his first feature film. The setting? The famous Dakar Rally. The short story synopsis: An inspiring account of the fear of life passing you by unfulfilled.
This story-plot and two film maker newbies did not really attract and create a flood of angel investors. We tried, there was a lot of talking but in the end no commitment.
So we scrapped every dollar and went on to at least do all the filming and let the story unfold. Being a documentary, there was no plot, no script, just constant recording of daily events. At the end, we had an amazing story to tell, a 300 hours gold mine of footage, and so many angles we could use for the story. We thought “it would be easier” to secure a pre-production financial investor. Again, a lot of talk but too risky for potential investors and TV network without a pre-approved time slot for a very first film yet to be done.
So we were back at square one. Two blokes with a dream, and the candle was getting dimmer. The harsh reality was that we had to do it without financial backing from external investors, no pre-sales either – just plenty of risks. But we believed in the power of the timeless Dream Racer story.
When we finally had a finished film, we knew it was a winner. Dream Racer was such an emotional movie on so many fronts. Our first screening had people laughing, in tears, and inspired to chase their own dreams. We thought “now it should be easy to sell the film” and adopted the traditional approach.
We hired well-connected distributors in Europe and the United States, and chased every contact and leads we had. The results were still limited and a single sale was made, not really the result we were led to believe and wanted. I think the reasons were a combination of no known actors which raised the ‘risk-levels’ for TV Networks.
So in true Dream Racer Style, we rolled up our sleeves once more and decided to go-for-it ourselves. We ended up with some success with Qantas, Virgin, and Emirates. Dream Racer was now part of the local and international in-flight entertainment system. People kept emailing us with beyond words testimonials and wanting to know where else could they watch the film. And we started to smile again.
“I suggest anyone reading this just order it with the above link. You will not regret it. Bikes bring people together. Don’t dream your life, live your life. Thanks for making this inspiring movie and sharing your lives with us.” Kim K.
Then there was the big decision on DVDs/Blu-Rays and On-Demand. What to do? Give the rights away or do it ourselves. The experience with international distributors had not been a rewarding one, of course the fault was not all theirs, nobody had any idea who we were, and the risks were too high. Two options presented themselves, to go the international distributor route, and most likely be a repeat of a poor previous experience – and why repeat something that had not worked before? Or go at it ourselves. Now you want to keep on reading because we are now entering into deep movie promotion territory.
Some people say DVDs and Blu-Rays are dead. Well not quite. In fact, our revenue for DVDs and Blu-Rays far exceed On Demand sales. Not every country in the world has fantastic internet connection, nor is anyone full tech oriented yet. With that in mind we began with the obvious and put a e-Commerce website together (https://www.dreamracer.tv) whose sole purpose was to show the film trailer and sell three versions of the film based on geographical areas. A Blu-Ray ‘All Region’ version, a DVD NTSC version for the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and a DVD PAL version for most of the world. We also wanted to reach other non-English countries so we added subtitle options for viewers in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Russian.
But having a website that accepts Credit Card and PayPal payments is the easy part and just the tip of the iceberg. People needed to know that the website existed. At that time, our knowledge of social media advertising, retargeting, google adwords, SEO techniques were pretty much non-existent.
So we did what everyone would do, email friends and family asking them to share the website url, write post on forums, and let everyone know “we had a great film they would definitely enjoy watching.” Of course this approach is not sustainable long-term, and we had to get marketing-savvy real quick.
Then there were this ‘Video-on-Demand’ world out there. And whilst it would be easy to sign up a content aggregator that would format the film accordingly for the likes of iTunes (individuals cannot sell directly to iTunes), Amazon Video, Vudu, and the Hulu of the world and hope for the best, the numbers did not make sense. Their selling point was “we will put your film in front of hundreds of thousands or millions of potential viewers.” Really? But for how long? In the end, these companies are for-profit, so they will keep pushing the content that sells, contents that are low risks with plenty of known actors in order to maximize their profit. It makes sense for them, but this model was not for Dream Racer as we would have quickly been lost in the thousands of titles out there unless we advertised for it? But would have this been economically viable?… read on.
After the content aggregator retained its fees and the likes of iTunes retained their profit, we would have been left with a whole lot of not much. And when you know of the cost-per-click of online advertising and have a basic understanding of click-through-rates vs. conversion rate, the math very quickly says “DO NOT GO THERE… BAD IDEA!” You see, the only way to survive longer than a few months on these platforms would have been to advertise. But retaining a mere 20-30% of a stream cost of $5, doesn’t leave much room for an advertising budget. So we closed that door and opened a Vimeo account.
Given that Vimeo is probably the lowest priced, fairest margin and most professional platform out there, it made sense at the time to host Dream Racer on that platform. Whilst it was ok as a rental / streaming option, we were not happy with the purchase option. Vimeo did not offer protection via Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital goods. Its purpose is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of products and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they’ve acquired – which meant that anyone purchasing the film could download a MP4 file and share it. Now if your film has been paid for by sponsors that would not be much of an issue as you would want people to see it, but for us we were going through a slower organic growth and needed sales to recoup our investment, so we did not want to risk this.
The second downside with Vimeo was the lack of customer details. We were getting paid 30 days after month end, which was a bit of a long payment terms but quicker than many other platforms, but we did not get any information about who our customers were apart from a geographic report. And if were to film Dream Racer II, all these sales would not have been very useful as we couldn’t build upon an existing customer base. Read this paragraph again as it is the key to making your film and future films successful.
Because the lack of DRM and the lack of customer information we rolled our sleeves one more time and launched Dream Racer TV.
Working with technology partners, Dream Racer TV does a lot more for film makers than the top video on demand platform providers. Let’s go through it in details:
- First and foremost, the film maker content is encrypted and protected with Digital Rights Management;
- Film makers own their audiences and know exactly who rented or purchased their film as part of the monthly report they receive;
- Payment is made 7-days from the end of the month, so it’s quicker than Vimeo and a lot quicker than most other platforms;
- From a viewer’s perspective, we have the best of both world, streaming like Netflix or downloading and watching the content (rented or purchased) offline via the App. This is currently available for iPhone/iPad as well as Android systems. On computers, content can only be streamed but we will add the App in the future;
- Of course, people can connect their computer or mobile devices to their SmartTV to watch films on the big screen via Chromecast, AirPlay or Screen Mirroring, as well as connecting via a HDMI cable;
- Content can be geographically blocked if the film maker choose to;
- Prices by regions are decided by the film makers and not set by us;
- We support all film makers with their promotional activities and distribute discount codes (unique or common) for them to use with their marketing activities;
- We share our experience marketing Dream Racer with film makers that wish to actively promote their films;
- We support film makers with advanced marketing techniques on social media, google adwords; audience creation, lookalike audiences, email campaigns, as well as speaking engagements (many of them are keynote speakers due to the inspiring nature of their film;
- All the films that we have on Dream Racer TV are inspiring in nature, they are true stories, and will inspire each viewer to chase their own dreams or life objectives. The stories go far beyond one of entertainment;
- Finally, when your film is listed as part of Dream Racer TV, your viewers will be exposed to other great films and vice-versa – thus helping all film makers make their content known.
Using the approaches above, here are some important statistics of what has been achieved to date, remember we started without any experience in film making and our initial mailing list was friends and family. Today, our website has been visited by every country in the world, except from — as we go to print (Cuba and Western Sahara). Dream Racer has been watched by audiences from over 145 countries. Our On Demand platform, Dream Racer TV, has audiences from over 80 countries, and this was achieved in just a little over 12 months. Yes we know Online Marketing now!
There are still many gaps negatively affecting film makers today from the major Video-on-Demand platforms providers. Dream Racer TV takes the side of the film maker and seeks to fill these gaps and actively support film makers promoting their films. Today we have some fantastic and very inspiring stories from ordinary people that have achieved extraordinary feats. Here are some of the titles:
Daniel Rintz in his film Somewhere Else Tomorrow traveled the world for almost three years without money. Luke Tyburski set himself a challenge in The Ultimate Triathlon, a 2,000 km effort swimming between Europe and Africa, cycling the coast of Spain and running across France…in just 12 days. In Sheer Will, Michael Groom is one of the handful individuals to have climbed the five tallest summits in the world without oxygen support. On his second climb he lost all of his toes due to frost bites, learned how to walk again and climbed the other three tallest mountains without toes. In A 60km/h, Mario Sabah left everything behind. He restored his old Citroen from 1977 for a 150,000km trip across 45 countries. In The Story, Nick Sanders shows the extraordinary life of an ordinary man winning Guinness World Records travelling around the world on his motorcycle. Down, But Not Out tells the tale of four amateur women boxers as they step for the first time into the ring. Our latest addition, The Monkey… and Her Driver is the story of Kendra and Betty, America’s only all-women sidecar road racing team. Riding Morocco: Chasing the Dakar is a National Geographic production, following two adventure bikers take on the journey of a lifetime travelling through Morocco, North Africa, on the trail of the ultimate biking challenge, the Dakar Rally. And Finally our own, Dream Racer – a 10 times international award winning film and the most awarded motorcycle film of all time.
Today we are proud to have gone as far as this, and even more proud to make these great stories, full of personal sacrifices, for you to watch right away on Dream Racer TV. When you watch any of the films above, your financial support goes a long way to support these fantastic people.
We also need to mention that we work closely with Film Festivals such as the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival in Canada, the Lisbon Motorcycle Film Festival in Portugal, The Vintagent in the United States, the French Riviera Motorcycle Film Festival in France, and many more that help us locate great films.
Take Away Summary – What to Do Now?
- If you believe your story is compelling, but have had no success selling your film to networks, then listen to your viewers. If the testimonials are positive, keep pushing ahead.
- Make a decision of $dollars vs. the long-term strategy of owning your audience. If your goal is money, then be willing to give the house away, the financial returns may or may not be there. If you want to retain control then go the DIY way, at least for the DVDs / Blu-Rays as it will be easier to justify the cost of advertising than from streaming revenue.
- If you do decide to go the DIY route, brush up on your non-coded IT skills with setting up your website correctly, building audiences, split testing, email automation systems (etc) which we call ‘the plumbing’. Then brush up a lot more on your marketing knowledge and techniques, there are many models you can follow and of course we can help you with those if your content is on Dream Racer TV.
- We are more than happy to have non-exclusive agreements and for you to decide what platform gives you the most value. Remember however that your advertising dollars will have a lot more value if you use Dream Racer TV.
- Think carefully about the protection of your content via DRM as not everyone will do the right thing by you.
- Nothing comes easy, don’t expect great things to happen without lifting a finger. You still need to constantly promote your film, engage and nurture your audience with useful content.
We are more than happy to help along the way when your film is listed on Dream Racer TV, as your success is also ours.
For more information about hosting your film on Dream Racer TV, feel free to contact us. We also look forward to your comments below regarding your own experiences as well as your feedback about this article.
Related Article: How to Sell your Documentary Film