On Sept. 3, 2013, video-sharing website Vimeo announced that it is teaming up with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), as of 2013, to offer a $10,000 advance to movies without distribution to have their movies exclusively available via Vimeo's video-on-demand (VOD) service. The movies getting offered these $10,000 advances must be feature-length films having their world premieres at TIFF, which this year runs from Sept. 5 to Sept. 14, 2013. Vimeo's offer is the first VOD deal of this kind at TIFF. To celebrate this new program, Vimeo is having an invitation-only party in Toronto on Sept. 8, 2013.
According to a Vimeo press release: "The program requires that Vimeo be the premiere digital window, but gives filmmakers flexibility to combine the Vimeo On Demand offer with traditional distribution including theatrical runs. Vimeo’s program is a first for the independent filmmaking community and exemplifies the company’s commitment to enabling filmmakers to directly connect with their audiences worldwide.
"Films accepting the open offer will be released from their online exclusivity after a period of 30 days, or as soon as Vimeo recoups the $10,000 advance. After the advance is recouped, Vimeo will provide its industry leading 90/10 revenue split, with 90 percent going to the filmmaker after the deduction of associated transaction costs. Filmmakers will still be able to pursue traditional distribution vehicles as well as other online platforms after the exclusivity window.
"Vimeo On Demand provides filmmakers with unprecedented control and flexibility, allowing them to set price, viewing format (stream or download), and geographical availability while allowing the creator to retain full ownership of the film. Moreover, filmmakers will have access to Vimeo’s growing audience of over 100 million monthly unique visitors across the full spectrum of connected devices, including desktop, phone, tablet, connected TV and game consoles, all in beautiful HD quality."
In March 2013, at the South x Southwest Film Festival, Vimeo announced the launch of Vimeo On Demand, a service that enables its paying subscribers to charge other Vimeo users a fee for watching their videos. Since making its debut, Vimeo On Demand has grown to a global catalog of more than 2,000 titles, according to Vimeo. One of those movies was "Some Girls," written by Neil LaBute (based on his "Some Girls" play) and starring Adam Brody and Kristen Bell.
In an exclusive interview, I spoke with Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor about Vimeo's VOD offers at TIFF at and beyond:
Why did you decide to offer this $10,000 deal to all movies having their world premieres at TIFF, instead doing what most distribution companies do at film festivals, which is is only offer deals to a some select movies?
The reason why we chose to offer this to world premieres as a group is because we're really interested in finding a simpler, more open approach to allowing films to use the platforms. This is our first test of adding financial support to just the existing features of the video-on-demand platform. Any filmmaker, as long as they have a Vimeo PRO subscription, can utilize Vimeo On Demand and all the features that it entails. They can upload their film, they can set their price, they can set their geography, they can set the length of the rental period. And then they enjoy the 90/10 revenue share that we offer, with 90 percent of the revnue going to filmmakers, and we just subtract transaction costs.
In the case of this program [at TIFF], this is the first time in any open way that we're testing the addition of financial support. We're providing a minimum guarantee of $10,000. And what we've done is to offer that to all of the world-premiere films. So, any film of feature-length that is premiering in Toronto has the opportunity to participate in this program and receive the minimum guarantee, as long as they follow a couple of basic parameters that we've set, one of which is that Vimeo be the premiere digital window. So it goes to Vimeo the digital platform before any other digital platform. They can still pursue theatrical and even traditional cable VOD alongside of it, but that Vimeo is the first digital platform and that it would be exclusive to us for the first 30 days or until the $10,000 is recouped — whichever comes first — and that it remain on the Vimeo platform after the exclusion period for up to two years, non-exclusively.
Certainly, we'll be screening films, and we'll be talking to a lot of the filmmakers directly that we're interested in, and answering questions to those who are interested in us. But it's very different from the traditional distributor approach, where they go to a festival and attempt to cherrypick individual films, whereas we really view the mark of [TIFF] as a general mark of quality.
And we're taking the stance of, "Hey, if you've been selected to be a part of Toronto and to have a film world premiere at the festival, you're already a filmmaker of quality and distinction." And therefore, we're able to make this offer to the group as a whole ... We're trying to find a broader approach that welcomes in a whole cohort and class of films that makes one easy-to-understand offer that they can all take advantage of ... [The films] are subject to Vimeo's general terms of service, meaning certain parameters of the tone of the content, but I doubt that any of the films would be disqualified based on things like hate speech or adult [pornographic] content.
Many people want to see movies for the first time by going to movie theaters or watching the movies on TV. What type of audience do you think is driving this growing interest in watching movies on demand for the first time on the Internet or on their mobile devices?
I think it comes from the creators' side and the viewers' side. From the viewers' side, more and more people are turning to digital outlets to get their own particular mix of entertainment and news and content in general. And they're used to it being on demand. Video is one of the most rapidly evolving sectors of media overall, in terms of people being accustomed to going to services to select their own particular mix of content and not wanting to wait for it through "traditional" mechanisms.
Likewise, I think the same is true on the creators' side. The "Some Girls" project is very instructive here. We premiered Vimeo On Demand at South x Southwest at the same time that "Some Girls" premiered as a film. If they had gone through a traditional circuit — and certainly with Neil LaBute as a writer and Adam Brody and Kristen Bill as stars, they had many options available to them — it would have taken them in excess of a year to roll out the film theatrically and then potentially for other channels around the world.
With Vimeo On Demand, what they saw was the opportunity to go directly to their audiences worldwide within three or four months of premiering the film [at South x Southwest]. They did a theatrical run in Los Angeles and concurrently released the film on Vimeo On Demand. For [the "Some Girls" filmmakers], one of the main drivers was speed to market.
In addition to speed to market, it was all of the other features I mentioned: They had greater control over the pricing, they had a greater share of the economics. The role of direct distribution is gaining momentum every day as an alternative as well as a complement to traditional film-distribution approaches.
The key driver of platforms like Vimeo playing an increasingly important n the distribution and consumption of video content is the device-proliferation factor, meaning that now, we live in a world where you can consume full HD-quality video on a phone, a tablet, a desktop and through connected televisions through devices like Apple TV, Roku or Xbox. The spectrum of devices support that activity.
The mobile [devices] and the phone are absolutely the home base for the younger media consumer, and they consume tons of content on their mobile devices. That skews slightly younger, so ultimately, that's the wave that's going to continue to drive it all the way through. Video of all kinds or independent film is going to be about the desire for consumers to seamlessly access that across all different device form factors ... and be able to select their own mix of content from the platforms that they view as the most relevant on any device.
For Vimeo, we are committed to being the high-quality platform for creators and their audiences worldwide. So, for us, we have tended to attract a very higher-quality but still diverse set of video-content offerings, from independent film to action/sports content to instructional content ... with the unifying thread of quality of making it available to audiences on any device.