IndieFlix New Apps Could Help Tiny Movie Service Make It Big

If the movement in online video is toward watching on mobile, then it would seem there’s a pretty good future ahead for IndieFlix, an online movie service that is, right now, even smaller than many of the films it features.

IndieFlix was co-founded by Scilla Andreen (with Carlo Scandiuzzi), herself a Sundance-lauded filmmaker who also worked as a Emmy-nominated TV sitcom costume and wardrobe designer for several network series in the '80s and '90s.

As its name suggests, IndieFlix shows films from small, independent filmmakers. One of its central categories are short films, the kind mobile users might want to watch on the bus, or while at lunch.

“We’re really focusing on short films, though right now, 60% of our library is feature length and 40% is short,” she said. “But that’s the reverse of our viewing.”

IndieFlix has existed since 2005 as a DVD service, then a PPV online service which started in 2008, and last year began as a subscription service.

There’s a lot to like, especially if you’re not particularly enamored by a lot of Hollywood big budget films, and conversely, interested in thoughtful/weird and/or foreign titles and topics and documentaries. (Though in fact, Andreen says 70% of IndieFlix’s subscribers are Netflix subscribers, too.)

Subscribers pay either $5 a month (“It’s the price of a coffee at Starbucks,” Andreen says) or $50 a year to access IndieFlix films. Soon, they'll be able to pass on a film to a non-subscribing friend to watch--a nice feature that creates a sharing opportunity without obliging pals to pony up to pay for somebody else’s kind gesture.

If things go the way IndieFlix hopes, a big growth spurt is around the corner. With only 100,000 subscribers now, the content provider is about to launch apps for Apple and Android phones, where all those short subjects could find a waiting audience.

At the same time, it’s also headed for Amazon’s Fire platform and it's already on all Sony products that can accommodate streaming, and it’s already on Roku and Xbox consoles.

“Those new apps could be a big leap for us,” Andreen says. “We want to be on every device that makes sense.”

An admirable aspect of the IndieFlix pay scheme is that part of its revenue goes to the indiie filmmakers, who, of course, are not-so-proud card-carrying members of the starving artists club. 

Through IndieFlix’s RPM program--that stands for Royalty Pool Minutes--filmmakers make 7 cents to 9 cents for every minute IndieFlix films are watched and that rate is climbing with its popularity as a service. Fifteen cents, or even 30 cents could be happening soon. The Web site brags: “We’re part champion, part curator.”

That feature is powered by Kaltura, which creates monetization and tracking tools for IndieFlix and the filmmakers. It helps both ends of the business. 

IndieFlix picks five to 25 films a day to add to an active library of 5,800 titles, and filmmakers get access to a dashboard that lets them know who is watching. Andreen says some filmmakers, through that analytic tool, find where, in this country or around the world, moviegoers are reacting most strongly, allowing them to try other marketing to feed that appetite.

The RPM concept, Andreen says, is a direct result of her own struggles to afford to make and market movies. So while the new apps and Amazon presence obviously help IndieFlix, an expanded base of customers can helps filmmakers, too. “As we grow, it starts to get really exciting,” she says.

IndieFlix is nearing the end of $2 million round of funding, and Andreen thinks there will be another one next year. She admits she’s a most unlikely Webcsite entrepreneur, but she adds: “I’m starting to find the fun in fundraising.” In the meantime, she’s also touring the country with the IndieFlix-backed documentary, “The Empowerment Project,” which celebrates the new face of women making their marks in a lot of businesses where they were once strangers on the outside looking in. Andreen’s been there.

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