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TV and film distribution will see a dramatic shift in the post-Covid world

Vuulr CEO Ian McKee on why this is a watershed moment for the way the content industry operates.

It’s true to say that the global TV and film business has taken a cataclysmic hit in recent months.

From the halting of production, the closing of screening theatres to the resulting impact on many businesses up and down the value chain – it’s been a truly testing time for so many. But, like all change, benefits are there to be had by the fastest to adapt.

Even prior to Covid-19, the entertainment industry was undergoing a deep structural shift in its distribution business. The rulebook for buying and selling rights was being torn up and long needed innovation was starting to appear.

The rise of the streaming platforms, who are using the internet to give them global reach and with vast data-warehouses of audience behaviour, has overturned the power structures in the industry. From general entertainment leaders such as Netflix and Amazon to niche but global category killers – too many to mention – these new businesses heralded the rise of content businesses that understand that entertainment is now an internet delivered product.

Digital by DNA, data-driven, internet culture organisations, the streamers are increasingly dominating the acquisition of content. Hungry to feed a “glocal audience” (global but with localised catalogues for each region), these companies recognise that great stories can come from anywhere and can travel everywhere. They look beyond their “back-yard” for their acquisitions process.     

Digital content marketplaces such as Vuulr provide the fertile trading ground for these progressive thinking acquisitions teams. They recognise the strategic benefits of being able to search huge global catalogues quickly and easily, of being able to evaluate and make and negotiate to acquire content at speed with deals closed in under 10 days.  

Without the friction and cost of traditional deal making there is less need for out-put and first-look deals, which entails committing to content ‘sight-unseen’. Instead, they cherry pick globally, choosing those titles that are the best fit for the audience and purpose. This is creating huge new opportunities for those companies that make great content but didn’t have the ‘distribution muscle’ that was used to get the lucrative deals. In essence, digital content marketplaces bring “content meritocracy”. 

Change is also coming to pricing models, many streaming platforms for instance, are negotiating to use data to determine the value of content via performance pricing models rather than making flat rate offers – landing agreements based around viewer count, stream length or share of advertising revenue.  

Agile content makers and distributors are seizing the opportunity that digital content marketplaces offer; no up-front costs, the ability to showcase their whole catalogue, a simple 10 per cent commission (with no other costs) upon success and through digital marketing, the ability to get their content in front of buyers globally. And this new paradigm is proving successful. For example 10 sellers (all independent producers/distributors) on the platform have closed more than 600 deals between them in the first half of 2020, making a big impact on their bottom line.  

This isn’t to say that physical markets such as the recently cancelled MIPCOM 2020 will be dead and buried. On the contrary, I believe there’s still a vital place for face-to-face meetings, networking and speaker forums to share knowledge. But internet technology has changed the game not just for the delivery of entertainment to the audience but also for the acquisitions teams that are tasked with going out to search and acquire the rights to it. Covid-19 has simply accelerated the adoption of this new way of working.

So, as more and more markets and festivals sadly find themselves postponed, with major studios, media companies, streamers and independent companies deciding to work from the safety of home, it is time to look at digital marketplaces and digital events as a new complementary model whose time has come.