Popcornflix Joins Ad-Supported Streaming Movie Race
While Netflix and Hulu Plus wage a high-profile battle to garner subscribers -- and content -- for their commercial-free movie streaming services, consumer demand for free, ad-supported films appears to remain high.
Even Hulu's just-concluded deal with Miramax included a provision for 15 titles to be available monthly through Hulu's basic free service.
Others offering free, ad-supported movie services include Sony's Crackle, Comcast's Xfinity, AOL's Slashcontrol -- and recently launched in Beta, popcornflix from Screen Media Ventures, a specialist in acquiring and distributing independent features to domestic and international television, as well as home video.
Over its 12-year history, Screen Media has built a library of 1,500 films ranging from obscure titles like "The Democratic Terrorist" to hits like "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery." Due to clearance issues, not all of these films will be available on Popcornflix, which currently hosts 204 movies and is digitizing new titles at the rate of three or four a day until it gets to an expected total of 1,000 flicks later this year. "Austin Powers" is not available, but "The Democratic Terrorist" has just been added.
In addition to its own library, Popcornflix is also acquiring rights to films from other companies and splitting ad revenues 50/50, according to Gary Delfiner, senior vice president of digital distribution for Screen Media Ventures. In addition to movies, one acquisition area has been in original Web series; Popcornflix identified the top series it wanted and began aggregating them, says Delfiner. These include "Alpha Planet," "Crime Scene" and "Squatters." Popcornflix also has a category called "Film School Originals," which invites submissions from students. As of Friday, 55 student films had been accepted on the site from some 15 schools.
In addition to banner ads, Popcornflix ad opportunities include 15-second pre-rolls and -- every 10 minutes or so -- 15-second mid-rolls. The service is using Brightcove as its video platform, Akamai for its customized content player, and multiple networks to fill its inventory -- including Adotube, Martini, Spot Exchange and ValueClick. Rather than use ad servers from any of these networks, Popcornflix enlisted aiMatch to provide both ad-serving and forecasting data for its display, video and mobile inventory, aiMatch is also helping to get Popcornflix onto Roku and an HTML5 solution for tablets like the iPad.
Ryan Treichler, vice president of product development for aiMatch, explained that Popcornflix presented an ad-serving challenge not only because "pretty much all their inventory is video," but also, unlike even Hulu, it's mostly long-form video.
Delfiner said that Popcornflix will begin rolling out of beta in another month or so, with the service being promoted by a Google AdWords search campaign, Facebook ads and Internet premiere events -- all handled in-house.
In the next few months, Popcornflix will put inventory data to use. Delfiner said the service plans to start working with outside ad sales reps.