How do I sell my movie to Netflix or iTunes

Scott Conditt asked: What is your general opinion on the new school independent VOD distribution method versus going to market with your films the traditional distributor route?

Good question, but there are a ton of them out there.  Further questioning he was specifically getting at Netflix and iTunes.  So let’s start there.

iTunes.  iTunes is a great platform and you get a nice piece of the download pie, BUT you can’t currently do it yourself.  Well, you can if you meet their requirements to open your own store.  But the first requirement is (at the time of this posting) “5 feature-length movies or documentaries that were released theatrically (or) 100 feature-length movies or documentaries that were either released theatrically or direct-to-video.”  That rules out most independent film makers.  That doesn’t rule out iTunes, though, just means you will have to go through an aggregator.  An aggregator IS NOT a distributor.  Some aggregators will charge you a fee up front and you make 100% of the take.  Others will take a percentage of the sale price instead.  Some will be a combination of both.  If you think your film is going to sell thousands of downloads at $3 to $5 than paying $1000 to $3000 prep fee might be worth it.  Be realistic and shop around.

There are a slew of iTunes aggregators popping up everywhere.  There are even more out there advertising than on the official list by Apple.  That might mean they are really a distributor that is going through one of the official aggregators, so ask if they aren’t on the official list. Buyer beware.  Do some math.  Run the numbers.  Be realistic and see what happens.

Netflix.  Netflix has been the friend and holy grail of indies for years.  It was a big notch in your belt to say your movie was on Netflix.  So much so that film makers didn’t pay attention to the terms of their deals.  Now, these deals were RARELY with Netflix directly.  It was a sales agent, distributor or aggregator that then licensed to Netflix.  Just like iTunes, its pretty much the only way you are getting your movie on Netflix these days.  Unlike iTunes, its a flat fee, no a pay per view licensing structure.  That means, you get a set amount of money and in return grant a two year license to Netflix to stream your movie online.  Usually this is non-exclusives (meaning you can stream on multiple services).

You’ll read stories about how people only got $1000 for their two year license.  Now, I don’t know the terms of every deal and how it was structured, but have been involved with quite a few Netflix streaming deals.  My guess is those $1000 license fees were 10x (or more) higher, but because of the contract with their sales agent, distributor, or aggregator, that money was allocated to other fees and percentages.

There are also other online streaming services out there.  Most of those are a platform solution but you’ll make money based on how much traffic you drive to your movie.  Its all in the marketing and most of the time that’s completely up to you.  They don’t offer much in terms of promoting your film.  So, as I said above, run the numbers.  I’m going to say, in most cases, if they are just taking a percentage, its worth the chance, but you can’t drive content everywhere, so, again, just run the numbers.