How to Distribute Your Film to SVOD and Keep 100% Ownership

The film industry and distribution marketplaces are in constant flux… but the problem for indie filmmakers remains the same:
How (and where) do I distribute my content? 

A  Quick Summary 

  • Subscription video on-demand is a $60B industry growing 10% year over year. 
  • Major streaming services are cutting down on indie film distribution, opening up new opportunities for independent streaming services, focused on indie film. 
  • Special.tv enables indie filmmakers, studios, and distributors to own their own SVOD channel, keep 100% ownership of content, know their audience, and keep 90% of revenue–while also proving to be a source of funding for future films. 

What was once reserved for the Hollywood elite…

The streaming giants–Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV, Amazon, HBO–are undoubtedly highly sought after by indie filmmakers as an avenue for distribution. According to Statista, global Video On Demand revenue grew to $60B in 2020 and is expected to reach $96B by 2025; Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD), makes up the largest and fastest growing segment of that market with 880 million pairs of eyes globally and 78% of households with SVOD in the US alone.

But while these streaming services certainly made a profound impact in the film distribution marketplace (particularly in the wake of COVID-19), they aren’t always readily accessible for indie filmmakers–and aren’t always desirable either. Loss of content rights, low pay (if any), flat rates that are often tied to budget regardless of performance, and typically long terms of exclusive agreements are considerable downsides. 

But hey, at least it’s being watched, right? Not necessarily. With thousands of titles, it’s easy to get lost in the sauce; unless your content is being featured or living on the homepage carousels, viewers have to sift through mountains of content to discover yours. And even then, you won’t get any analytics–yet in fact, while most of these streaming giants are certainly tracking watch time analytics and other metrics, they’re just not sharing them with you. Instead, they use the insights learned from your content, and apply it to the creation of their own original content–and then put that content on the home page. For an entrepreneurial filmmaker with big dreams, these are major thorns when considering distribution avenues.

Film festivals offer great exposure and marketing, but even winning awards at top tier film festivals doesn’t guarantee distribution. For many, film festivals are where deals are struck with sales agents, aggregators, and other distributors. The problem for indie filmmakers: of course the film has to be good to be picked up, but the reality is that just like their Hollywood counterparts, most distributors pick up films with concepts they already know how to market and package. It’s an understandable business perspective, but it inadvertently curbs creativity, creative control, and independence of indie filmmakers–which is what makes indie film so great in the first place. Sales agents and aggregators also often charge fees simply to work with them, and take a sizable chunk of the revenue your film garners with typical term lengths around 10-15 years. 

So after all that, it’s still a gamble as to whether your content will be picked up, you probably lost rights and insights into your work’s performance, and you are the last in line for revenue.

Another avenue indie filmmakers take, often after exploring other distribution options, is posting their content for free on YouTube or Vimeo–because at least eyes are getting on their work…right? Maybe. 

While these are discovery platforms, they are riddled with ads and algorithms designed to keep their users hopping from one video to another; these platforms foster escapism through a constant distraction loop of ads and suggested videos, oftentimes with click-baity thumbnails designed to grab attention. Your (potentially even award-winning) film that you’ve spent countless hours of “blood, sweat, and tears” on, is now competing with cute cat videos. And let’s get real, we all know that cats rule the internet. And there’s a reason they do: making money on these platforms is extremely difficult, and driven solely by ad revenue that requires a massive audience. 

So… now what? Where do filmmakers seeking distribution go from here? Subscription media is unbundling.

The distribution marketplace is just as confusing and chaotic now as it’s ever been–perhaps even more so now, after the impact COVID-19 has made. None of these avenues allow indie filmmakers to realize their full revenue potential, yet you still need to find a home for your content. 

Streaming is the new wave of distribution, and increasingly preferred among indie and network studio filmmakers alike given the sheer amount of viewers, global reach, and opportunity size–and SVOD in particular because of the recurring revenue stream.

Filmmakers want their content in an elegant interface that uplifts the value of their creation, but until recently, this has been reserved for the Hollywood elite or those that can afford the startup costs of making their own OTT product. Today, those that offer a platform to build and maintain your own OTT streaming service come with high monthly fees, video hosting fees, your own tech work, and more; and even when set behind a “free” start up model, users find they’re constantly being upsold to get the functionality that they want. Though the prices of building and owning your own streaming service have decreased and become more attainable, they still quickly run into the tens of thousands of dollars a year to build and upkeep. For indie filmmakers, this isn’t typically feasible. 

What if this–all of this–could all be turned on its head? The future of SVOD is in niche genre content, streamed to niche audiences.

That’s exactly what the industry is starting to see. In the last few years, platforms like Patreon, Substack, and OnlyFans offer streaming to be accessible to all, putting control back into creators’ hands. But none of these platforms are suitable options for filmmakers to garner and grow an audience while earning revenue. 

But now, we’re finally seeing the beginnings of a new wave for independent distribution particularly suited for indie filmmakers beginning to surface: streaming SVOD platforms that include full transparency in analytics, revenue directly to the filmmaker or creative, maintaining distribution rights and ownership, while simultaneously owning your audience and creative vision. And Special.tv is riding the crest.

Special.tv empowers the creation and exchange of meaningful content

—but what does that mean for an indie filmmaker?

It means that whether you’re a solo filmmaker, an independent studio, or even distributing indie content from multiple creators, Special.tv could very well prove to be the best place to globally distribute your content independently. A home to own your audience, have transparent analytics, and establish strong recurring revenue at a price you determine–all while retaining complete ownership and rights of your content. It’s also completely free–no monthly fees, no hidden fees, no trials, no upselling, no hosting fees. Special.tv’s incentives are aligned with yours: they only make money when you do; you keep 90% of revenue that you make. With a sleek, elegant interface and cinematic, intuitive user experience, Special.tv is poised to serve as a home for you and your audience. And, it’s ad-free. 

Let’s look at a few examples of how emerging streaming services like special.tv are empowering indie filmmakers to create and distribute their content. 

Example 1: The indie film studio, direct to consumer model 

An independent studio with more than one film, series, or show

How Special.tv empowers indie film studios like Second World Entertainment

  • Own your own SVOD channel while keeping your creative vision and establishing recurring revenue, with none of the overhead and all the tools at your disposal to leverage, and create a successful–or grow an existing–media business.
  • Create a branded experience – customize your channel and content catalogue using simple, expressive branding tools to create a personalized home for you and your audience.
  • Control your pricing and create gated content – set your monthly and annual subscription price and Special takes care of the rest. Only your paying subscribers will enjoy exclusive access to your gated content.
  • Own your content and audience – stay independent and keep 100% ownership of your content and audience. 
  • Unlimited global distribution – stream to mobile, web, and smartTV to reach your subscribers wherever they are, and transact global currencies with secure payment processing to reach audiences worldwide. 

Example 2: The solo indie filmmaker

A solo filmmaker with a feature, documentary, masterclass, etc.

How Special.tv empowers award winning indie filmmakers like Cameron Beyl and The Directors Series:

  • A home for your content, and a base to grow. Stream your original films, features, series, shows, and episodes direct-to-fan and predictably grow with subscription memberships.
  • Authenticity, not ads – make content that is meaningful to you, and showcase it in a cinematic, ad-free interface where viewers subscribe directly to your content. 
  • Control, not algorithms – when a viewer is on your channel, they’re on your channel. Every video shown to them is yours and yours alone – and you determine the order in which you’d like to show them content or episodes, and guide their experience.
  • Independence, not contracts – your content, your control. Special.tv doesn’t (and doesn’t want to) own any of your content. Experience freedom in the distribution of your content.
  • Value, not donations – Special.tv believes your content has meaningful value. Asking for donations isn’t Special’s style; providing a platform where you can create and exchange meaningful content with subscribers, is. 
  • Own your audience, your pricing, and your brand – fans subscribe directly to you and their subscriptions help you bring more meaningful content to life. (Don’t feel like you have enough or the right type of content for SVOD? Special.tv also enables rentals, so you can still have a home for your content and generate revenue via pay-per-view, while you continue to build your repertoire.) With built-in subscriber loops, Special.tv enables you to build and hone your audience for your future work, too.

Example 3: Indie distributors

Special.tv is particularly well-positioned to enable niche indie distributors such as Massacre Video–and even collaborating indie filmmakers, studios, and producers–to establish a home for their audience, and grow predictably and sustainably via subscription revenue. 

How Special.tv empowers indie distributors and producer partnerships like Massacre Video:

  • Subscriber and viewership analytics – easily analyze subscriber acquisition, feature, episode and series performances, and viewership activity. Monitor active usage, retention, and churn to improve and grow.
  • Transparent revenue reporting – track your subscriber’s payments, lifetime value, and monthly revenue in real time. Know your income and transaction fees with transparent financial reporting.
  • Inclusive data export – your audience is your data. Access, review, and export your audience data as you please. Add your subscribers to a newsletter and provide exclusive offers beyond just your content. 
  • Unlimited global distribution in a branded experience – stream to mobile, web, and smartTV to reach subscribers wherever they are, and transact global currencies with secure payment processing to reach audiences worldwide.
  • Unlimited subscription memberships – whether you have 100 or 100,000 subscribers, Special’s rates never change. Take home 90% of your subscription revenue, no invoices.
  • Unlimited HD video hosting – dont worry about paying for video infrastructure. Take advantage of unlimited HD video upload, hosting, and storage for free, forever. Know your content is secure with digital rights management encryption

That’s a Wrap! 

Special.tv provides a platform for indie filmmakers, studios, and distributors to launch their own subscription video-on-demand channels with no fees other than a 10% cut of their subscription revenue. With a clean and intuitive interface, you could build your own SVOD channel in a few hours. There’s no exclusivity contracts or licensing agreement. Filmmakers own and control 100% of their content–meaning you’re free to premiere a film on your channel and keep it there forever as they develop your catalog, move it to another platform, or keep it on both.

All of the features and benefits described in the above examples are available for every creator on Special.tv to leverage. On Special.tv, everyone gets an opening night. You and your content are front and center within your channel, no more getting lost in the sauce. 

Another difference? You’re not left to fend for your own (unless you want to be). Special has a team dedicated to their creators’ success, because their incentives are aligned: Special.tv only makes money when creators do. From onboarding to launching to accelerating your growth, Special’s team works with their creators to structure their channel in a way that achieves their creative vision and goals, shares best practices and insights for to leverage as creators prepare to launch their channel, and even Accelerator program to help catalyze their growth (and no, no upsell–still free).

As for your audience, Special.tv also presents a welcome change: no more doom scrolling through mountains of content. Subscribers curate their own library by subscribing directly to the content they want, and Special.tv is transparent in communicating that 90% of revenue goes directly to the creator–which in turn directly empowers the creator to make more meaningful content that subscriber wants to watch–all packaged in an ad-free, cinematic experience. 

Altogether, Special.tv is worthy to keep on your radar for distributing your content independently (Variety thinks so, too), and as a home for you and your audience. 

This article was originally published by Special.tv, the independent streaming service powering global SVOD & TVOD distribution and monetization for independent filmmakers, studios, and distributors. Written by Ashton Solecki.

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