There was a time when industry types feared that the advent of online film and TV markets spelled the end of their days sipping cocktails in exotic locales. Nowadays, there’s some talk that rather than posing a threat, virtual markets may encourage more fluid communication between buyers and sellers, and increase the effectiveness of doing business at ‘real’ markets.
From a program seller’s point of view, the most important question is: Are the benefits of listing with an online market worth the investment of time and money? RealScreen checked out four specific sites – mipinteractive.com, TvResource.com, Reelplay.com and FilmFinders.com – to find out what services are offered to producers.
All four sites offer free digitization of text images and video, with listings including stills, synopses, business profiles, and streamed trailers or clips. Each site features detailed product search capabilities, and ancillary features such as news, links, targeted e-mail lists and job listings.
Launched nearly a year before all other online markets, mipinteractive.com offers the greatest number of documentary programs online: 4,450 of the 12,500 programs available to buyers. It is also one of the only online markets to charge a fee for posting programs. Annual rates range from a basic package of approximately us$1,160, which allows sellers to register 30 programs, to $5,000 for a corporate package, which allows for 3,000 program listings. Buyers access the site for free.
Florence Giacometti, head of mipinteractive.com, says that charging a fee for program listings assures a certain level of professionalism, which buyers appreciate. ‘I think buyers wouldn’t register on a free website, because they don’t really know who’s coming there. They want to know that the people coming to the site are legitimate, and not just any web surfer.’
mipinteractive.com has the enviable position of being the first of its kind, and as an extension of the Reed Midem machine, it’s a name that both buyers and sellers know.
Additional features on the site include a trends report, ratings info and news. Future plans include opening a forum to facilitate coproductions, increasing video streaming, and adding e-commerce travel arrangements.
Launched in October 1999, roughly one-third of TvResource.com’s program listings are documentaries – 2,000 of a total 7,000 programs. The site is advertising-fueled, so producers and distributors do not pay to list programs. Buyers also access the site for free. That said, TvResource.com is not accessible to the average web surfer, as it has a monitored registration process – both buyers and sellers must register, and their legitimacy is cross-referenced with a series of industry guides.
Sellers can list programs with video streaming clips in both narrowband and full-screen broadband formats. Marketing executive Adi McAbian says that along with access to new program listings, both buyers and sellers want service and content, which is how TvResource surpasses other sites. ‘We think buyers will come to us because we give them the most content and the most usability.’ He says that they also aim to give sellers an environment that warrants the time spent to keep updated listings. ‘If it isn’t fresh, then your database isn’t very valuable.’
TvResource.com is the first online marketplace to have launched a materials delivery service. Distributors or producers can pay a fee to have delivery materials, such as scripts, music cue sheets, and high-resolution images, stored in a secured section of their program-listing site. They can then grant private logins and passwords to buyers, which allow them to download the materials, cutting down on shipping costs.
TvResource will soon launch a fee-based private labeling system, enabling distributors and producers to link from their own home page to their product catalogue on the TvResource site. The site will be branded with the listing company’s own look and feel, meaning users will only see the specific producer/distrib’s company brand, never knowing that the back-end operations of the site are designed and maintained by TvResource.com.
|Launch Date||Oct ’98||Oct ’99||Oct ’99||Sept ’99|
|Mainly film based||no||yes||no||yes|
|Mainly TV based||yes||yes||yes||no|
|Free public searches||no||yes||no||no|
|Free buyers searches||yes||yes||yes||no|
|# programs listed||12,500+||5,000+||7,000+||4,000+
(new films only)
|# of docs listed||4,450+||70+||2,000+||200+|
|# of registered sellers||690+||1,000+||500+||1000+|
|# of registered buyers||1,290+||1,000+||400+||500+|
|Fee to list programs||yes||no||no||no|
Reelplay.com launched in October 1999 as a film-based site and currently has about 70 documentaries out of 5,000 program listings. However, chairman Mark Litwak says he expects that number to grow. ‘Over time, we do expect our documentary database to increase, especially since we opened up the site to TV product.’ A dedicated TV section was launched last NATPE (January 24-27, 2000, in New Orleans).
Associated with The Business of Film (a London-based trade publication), the site contains listings from all AFMA (American Film Market Association) members. Producers and distributors can list projects for free on personalized sites that Reelplay.com builds under their own brand umbrella. Buyers can also access the site free of charge.
The site generates revenue through advertising and does not restrict public access. Press and film fans are encouraged to search for info on projects that
interest them. This can lead to added promotional value, says Litwak. ‘Producers can develop viral marketing à la Blair Witch Project, keeping track of who’s interested in the film and letting them know when it’s available at Blockbuster, or when it’s available to screen.’
Two versions of the site are offered – a free basic service, which includes stills, synopses and a video trailer, and a premium service, which includes a customized listing site. Reelplay.com builds and designs the customized site for free, but charges $20 per month for maintenance. The premium service also allows program sellers to track interest in their site through a bulletin board, where visitors can leave comments.
The site also recently introduced an unrestricted section for filmmakers seeking distribution. Distributors can use both sides of the site – presenting their wares to buyers and searching for new product from producers. Possible future developments include allowing filmmakers to direct market videos to the public, and a materials delivery service.
Twelve-year-old Film Finders reporting service teamed up with ShowBizData.com to launch FilmFinders.com at the Toronto Film Festival in September 1999. The site deals with new feature films exclusively, and currently has around 200 documentary films out of 4,000 titles (films are listed annually).
Producers can list their films in both the traditional Film Finders guides and on the site for free. ‘Producers list with us because everyone in the international film business is our client. We’re a profitable company, and we’re highly regarded for the quality of our data,’ says Peter Belsito, executive VP at Film Finders.
Focused solely on the business that happens at and around international film festivals and markets, the site maintains a database of new films. For a fee, FilmFinders.com supplies buyers with all films at a given market or festival, including rights available, screening times and other relevant information.
FilmFinders.com is partnering up with the Cannes Film Festival and also cooperates with mipinteractive.com, offering cross-access to both websites.