The new film I Am Chris Farley chronicles the late comedian’s life, showcasing his most memorable characters along with a laundry list of amazing interviews with the people who knew him best. With a broadcast premiere on Spike TV and an instant release to VOD through the DIY video platform VHX, the film highlights the growing trend of creators, production companies and documentarians taking more control over their releases.
For filmmakers (and all content producers today) this raises an important question: how do you monetize your content over time and build a legacy when the distribution chain is more fragmented than it ever has been before?
“It’s a very interesting time for us in the distribution business. In the distribution landscape, when it comes to home entertainment, most of our time is spent trying to keep up with it.” said Joe Amodei, Founder of Virgil Films, the company behind I Am Chris Farley.
“We believe very strongly the more places the consumer can watch the films is better for us. These days, most films that are made aren’t seeing the light of a theatrical release, they’re not being bought for cable premium anymore as much as they used to be, so where are their films being seen? They’re being seen digitally,” he explained.
And while it’s becoming easier to get video distributed through players like Apple and Google, one option that’s becoming almost standard around digital releases is the DIY method, with platforms like VHX leading the charge, enabling video producers to monetize their own movies, short films and episodic content.
VHX’s custom commerce-driven landing pages offer flexible pricing options for creators, and detailed analytics about who is consuming the content and where.
CEO Jamie Wilkinson had a lot to say when it comes to the future of distribution:
“We feel having a direct to consumer offering, having your own presence you can control, and grow it’s an important part of a distribution pie, instead of just putting it in other people’s stores. Yes it’s hugely advantageous to be featured on the front page of iTunes, but you have no relationship with those consumers. What we’ve actually seen and the model for the creative entrepreneur of the now is somebody who is as deeply involved in the marketing work as much as the creative work.”
Wilkinson advocates for content owners to look at new long-term ways to bring value to a movie, or TV series than just the polished piece of video. Some of the strategies he’s found success with include pre-order packs, deluxe editions, flash sales and releasing additional content bundled over time.
He pointed me to another documentary called Stripped (a love letter to famous cartoonists). On their VHX-powered site you can buy the regular movie for $15, or a Deluxe Edition, or they even have a Super Awesome Deluxe Edition, which actually includes over 50 hours of additional content including all the full-length articles with the cartoonists (including the legends behind Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield for example).
Stripped is one movie, technically speaking, and here they are offering a top tier package with 50 hours of content.
While 50 hours of content might not be for everybody, it ends up being an absolute goldmine at $65 for the superfans, and sure enough this package actually ended up being the majority of the revenue they made off of the movie accordingly to Wilkinson. This really speaks to the idea that there’s a lot more that you can do with a movie than just simply release the movie.
While there may be more producers producing on, and for, more screens than ever before, people still truly appreciate quality content, and the outpouring of positive press and reaction online around I Am Chris Farley shows that quality content can and will be consumed anywhere.
At the end of the day, money talks, and content owners will continue to figure out new ways to distribute and monetize their content. And it’s a good thing too, because what’s the point of owning all that IP if you don’t use it?
While the DIY approach from platforms like VHX can enable greater revenue opportunities, it’s still on the content owners to think about building lasting audiences around their IP, and understand how to deliver a unique content offering to get users to part with their hard-earned cash.