On Sunday, about halfway through the conference, there was a fantastic panel on branded content, which brought together folks from Youtube, VBS.tv, IFC and Babelgum Film. The crowd was split between filmmakers and brand representatives from both agency and client side, inspiring one of the most audience- active sessions I attended all week, with a lively debate among panel and audience members. Eddy Moretti, co-founder of VBS.tv, brought a fascinating perspective: VBS has been able to turn a gritty offbeat style into a well-known entertainment brand and has developed a relationship with many internal and contracted creatives (directors, animators, etc.), who create branded shows for VBS, like one that was just announced: :Motherboard" (sponsored by Dell). VBS brings the brand relationships and a site that offers distribution to viewers.
Moretti said, using this method, the company was able to produce content that was low-cost enough to be fully underwritten by brand sponsorship and still allow VBS to own the videos. Moretti said that guaranteeing distribution on vbs.tv was integral to building deals like this, which takes the guesswork out because the company knows many of its viewers will watch any branded series they put out. Being able to promise brands that they can solve this distribution problem is what's helped VBS retain ownership of the value of its content, avoiding the fate of many other video producers.
Jess Search, Moderator of the Panel and CEO of The Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation, said very directly that she's watching the value of content plummet, and recommended that filmmakers find a partner they can work with to handle the problem of distribution. She doesn't think it's necessary to be an expert at distribution, as she put it: "There are experts in getting content out; filmmakers shouldn't worry about solving distribution." Still, she was quick to add, if you're trying to produce marketing content, you should "make friends with people at agencies. Learn how they think, buy them drinks, find out what they read and subscribe to the same -- just talk to them about their world."
It makes sense -- when 60,000 videos are uploaded to Youtube everyday, it becomes really hard to stand out based on content alone. Anyone trying to surface their video content today has to solve a very difficult problem with distribution, and should have a strategy, budget, and partnerships to do so.