Some niche, independent movies will never be mass hits; the same can be said for some TV shows. Should producers and networks for non-mass-level shows act like those involved with indie films?
A few independent movies already already know the score -- especially this time of year, as Oscar season starts. Using a more down-to- earth business sense, a number of films have started video-on-demand at the same time they opened in theaters.
Current indie "Margin Call," distributed by Lionsgate, has pulled in some $4 million in VOD revenues, equaling the amount coming from theater receipts. That's a big deal.
"Margin Call" and other films made a calculated decision, figuring that big movie theater exhibitors are probably going to pass on their fare anyway -- and surely not go for a deal where the movie would be released theatrically on the same day as on cable operators' VOD services.
The decision to do this seems to run against the true nature of entertainment purveyors -- that any movie, TV show, musical act or whatever, is destined for greatness and great approval from a large amount of entertainment consumers.
“There are a lot of films that are not critical darlings and won’t break through to the masses, so [VOD] becomes a great way to get people to see them," Susan Jackson, founder of digital distribution company Freestyle Digital Media, told TheWrap.
Can TV shows learn a lesson here? Sure. But you ask, "With all the platforms for digital video streaming out there, isn't that enough?" Yes and no.
Digital video streaming still brings in microscopic advertising and user fee revenues. VOD, however, has the scale, robustness and perception of traditional TV for consumers. On the other hand, new TV shows seem to need a network to surround them -- both for scheduling and for marketing.
Still, cable operators have invested a lot money in VOD services and are ready to deal for right stuff. For example, they give film producers 70% of revenues versus the 50% they get from theater owners.
For some struggling but critically favorite shows -- "Fringe" on Fox, "Community" on NBC -- you might think that VOD could be an alternative. And what about those canceled ABC soap operas whose streaming digital deal recently fell through?
It comes down lowering grandiose expectations for money -- a feat which unfortunately few big-time TV and film producers, as well as performers and support staff, can handle as yet.