Category Archives: Monetizing

Thinking about how to find your Audiences.

Thinking about how to find your documentary’s audiences, Part I

This article parallels some content I’ve been teaching in my How to grow and monetize an audience for your independent production” seminar. (Not currently scheduled anywhere but got great attendance and review in New York (March) and San Francisco (June). I’ve also written on the subject Why is the First Audience so Important.

You must find that first audience, what this writer calls the “Insanely Interested”, for two reasons:

1. You cannot market to everyone, and films that are tightly focused perform better (the site with that reference seems to have lost its archives sadly). Key quote:

And it’s not that there is some big new trend of more women going to the movies. Rather, said Vinny Bruzzese, executive vice president of the motion-picture group for research firm OTX, the over-performance among women for certain films shows that “studios are catching on that you have to make the movie for a specific audience tend to overperform.”

2. Reaching a single target audience is easier because you can work out where they “hang out” online and in the physical world, making it much easier to target.

From the article, just ahead a graphic representation of the hierarchy of audiences.

Filmmakers are in many ways a romantic lot, embracing new advances while also clinging to the old notion of success: The opening at Sundance to rave reviews, the wide theatrical release, then national television and the Academy Award. For some, it’s still true, but for every Louie Psihoyos there are thousands of expensively-made documentaries that simply never got anywhere. And the reason for that has much to do with approaching audience.

Micro audiences can be of two types. One costs a lot of money to get, and the other costs much less. Filmmakers who can dispense with the dreams of grandeur can often find success and profit in the right kid of micro-audience.

Does Steven Levitan Also Want a cut of every TV Sale?

Does Steven Levitan Also Want A Cut Every Time You Buy A TV?

Ahead of a Hulu IPO Steven Levitan – a well respected and talented writer/producer – claimed that he and other content creators should get a cut of Hulu’s IPO. Funny I didn’t realize he got a cut of ABC’s profits when he provides them with content. Oh right, he doesn’t, but he’s effectively looking for the same thing.

What I found interesting though is this part of the article:

The more he argues, the deeper a hole Levitan seems to dig in his reasoning. He complains that if we don’t figure out a way to make his shows profitable, the only thing left to watch will be “sneezing pandas.” This is a version of the movie industry’s “$200 million myth.” It’s the “well, it costs me $x to make this, so if we can’t make that back, no one else could possibly make quality content for less.” It’s incredibly elitist and wrong. Not only is there good content made for less money out there (beyond the sneezing pandas), but if there’s really demand for his shows (and there appears to be), then there are smart business models you can pursue that don’t involve pissing off your fans or demanding an equity pay out from a company you didn’t actually invest in.

The emphasis is mine.

Why 99c rentals are still too expensive

Apple’s new Apple TV and 99c TV show rentals are definitely a step in the right direction but the cost is ridiculous.

Peak, premium, the best there is, content on major networks gets between 25 and 65c per viewer per show in revenue. That’s the top, highest end. So yes, the top of the top could conceivably rent for 99c, but the lesser shows? No way I’m spending 99c to watch a Daily Show (10 to 25c tops).

Last October I did a detailed tracking of what we watched and priced it out in the Apple store of the day. We watched that month an average of an hour and a half a day and the “best price” (taking advantage of Season Pass discounts) was $112.55. With rentals that would drop to $85.14.

Now, Dish (or Cable or whatever) 100 channel plan is around $65 a month, but I can watch up to 640 hours in that month (or record it for time shifted viewing). That’s about 10c an hour, not $1 per show. Of course, no-one can watch or record 640 hours in a month. The American Average is 135 hours a month of viewing (depending on who you ask, this is the conservative, lower end) or around 43c per hour, not per show.

An HBO subscription, with 32 hours of original programming a month equates to about 31c per hour, not show.

Part of what I find egregious about Apple’s new pricing is that it’s 99c for a 22 minute show, 99c for a 44 minute show or 99c for an extended episode. No allowance for the fact that some shows are worth more than others.

I’d cheerfully pay 10c per Daily Show. If I did and Apple took their 35%, that’s roughly 6.5c per show per viewer by 2 million viewers or $130,000 revenue per episode against approximately $35,000 per episode in cost. That’s an improved deal for the Daily Show producers and a fair deal for viewers.  The absolute maximum I’d pay for a Daily Show is 25c and at that I think it’s a rip off.

Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Burn Notice et al. I’d be happy to pay 50-65c but not 99c. Even at that these shows would be better off with this revenue model.

So, nice try Apple but until watching 4-5 hours a day, every day for a month has to be under $60 a month in total for it to be considered a cable replacement. Of course, this may not be Apple’s doing at all. It’s much more likely that the content owners have some ridiculously outsize estimate of the “value” of their content.

Is Renting TV Shows in 2010 Like Selling Bottled Water in 1970?

Is Renting TV Shows in 2010 Like Selling Bottled Water in 1970?

Jumping right to the conclusions:

From $30 to own a full season outright, to somewhere between $25 – $50 per month to watch and discard as many episodes you can bear to watch. How does $.99 to rent a single episode measure up? At just one episode per day you are already at the similar costs of the alternatives, and that does not include the hidden costs of distribution and storage. So is it then worth it to rent a-la-carte from Apple in convenient individual packages, or is it still much better to just pay for the water hook-up represented by cable and Netflix and drink from the tap whenever you like?

99c for a rental is outrageous for a “half hour” show, where the best the major Networks can get is 25c from advertising revenue. Add Apple’s markup of 14c and the maximum that’s reasonable is 39c for a rental. And that’s for premium, first run content off one of the major networks. Lesser content should be priced *below* that.

Is $10 The Magic Number In Online Publishing

Is $10 The Magic Number In Online Publishing?

Now that advertising isn’t going to be the only way to fund film and TV distribution, there are all sorts of ideas on how to fill the gap.

While this article is really focused on news, it’s not that removed from the idea of “1000 true fans” although with the true fans meme it is an average of $10 a month that you’re looking for from some “valuable consideration” – doesn’t have to be directly paying for content.

For example, as Shanahan notes in his blog, where he tries to compare ARPUs of public sites, People’s print magazine clocked a high $409 per customer in 2009 while Demand Media, many of whose users don’t hang around longer than to read a how-to article, notched just $1.60 per reader per year.

What can we learn from YouTubers making “big money”?

What can we learn from YouTube stars making “big money”?

Yet another story based on the TubeMogul data I reported last week when it was news. These 10 YouTube “stars” make between $100K and $315K – certainly nothing to be ashamed of and definitely above the goal of “a middle class income for all in production”.

It was the summary that almost made me laugh with its obviousness:

  • Good Content => $$$
  • if you can get enough traffic, you can make money
  • It takes time to build an audience and get to this level.

Despite the fairly obvious remarks above there are some good points in the analysis:

It’s probably not a coincidence that so many of these content creators are teenagers (or were when they started out), as teenagers tend to have less responsibility and more free time than full-time working adults like you and me.  Their common age bracket also tells you something about how many young viewers there are on YouTube, and just how loyal that audience can be.


While we may traditionally think of YouTube as a way to market our preexisting business, it might be time to start thinking of it as a possible new revenue stream as well.  The big lesson for us to learn here is this:  you can earn money on YouTube.  Maybe not $315,000 a year like Shane Dawson.  Maybe not quit-your-job-and-buy-a-mansion money… but good content will get views.  And views will provide advertising potential.  And advertising potential will eventually turn into dollars.

Web video company My Damn Channel gets $4.4m funding.

Web video company My Damn Channel zeroes in on branded entertainment  and celebrity content This is the third company in the “mini-web-studio” category to get funding recently.

There’s a lot out there beyond that original article – someone has a good publicist or is good at getting out to the media. The New York Times has After Drought, Hope for Shows Made for Web; there’s the Venture Beat article mentioned above and New TeeVee focus on the fund raising and expanding staff to “10 people”.

All three articles are worth the read. While there’s some duplication in content they give varying amounts of context and mentions of other similar mini-web-studios like Revision3, BlipTV and more, and how their shows “pay the bills”.

Tesco goes to Trolleywood

Tesco goes to Trolleywood

One step beyond branded media – custom movies! Content for one store only – harkens back to the early days of cinema where the studios also owned the cinemas. Kraft and P&G have jumped into the music business, so it’s only logical that Tesco will jump into the movie business. (Really, that’s logical?)

The supermarket giant that inhabits virtually every corner of our existence has this year moved into film-making with a straight-to-DVD movie or, as its makers prefer, a “DVD Premiere”. This autumn, Paris Connections will go on sale exclusively in Tesco stores. If successful, it could revolutionise the movie business, removing distributors and agents in one swipe and transforming how many films are made and funded.

Paris Connections is the first in a series of Collins adaptations, loosely based on her novel LA Connections, but transposed to Paris Fashion week. Today, in the Hotel Lutetia, the director Harley Cokeliss is shooting a catwalk scene. Many of the extras are authentic fashionistas: a man with wet-look leather trousers, plenty of big glasses and vertiginous heels. The effect is tarnished somewhat when I am hurriedly shepherded among them to make up the numbers.

Right now it’s just one movie, but it does indicate that there is a way around the stranglehold on production by the MPAA studios. Unlike those studios, Tesco didn’t intervene to micromanage the movie asking just “that it not be porn” and be PG15.

No matter how bad the movie, actors, directors, producers and the whole product crew got paid!

Anyone But Me Crowdsources $17K for Season 3.

Anyone But Me Crowdsources $17K For Season 3

One way to fund production – particularly web production – is to ask the fans to fund it. Anyone but Me (a show I haven’t seen but has completed two seasons) had the first two seasons funded by a “private investor”.

And like good filmmakers these days, there are graduated responses:

Ward and Miller have set a series of milestones for fundraising: When they reach the $30,000 mark, a special video of series stars Rachael Hip-Flores and Alexis Slade singing will be released. And at $55,000, Miller and Ward have committed to doing at least five new episodes of the show. “We wouldn’t just leave things where we left them [in the season two finale],” Miller said.

Yes Men Make $11,000 on first weekend of P2P release.

Yes Men Make $11,000 on First Weekend of P2P Release

By asking for donations while distributing the film The Yes Men Fix The World the Yes Men are bringing in “about $500 an hour” now.

For the Yes Men, that tipping point could actually come sooner than later. The duo has already said that it will definitely publish its next movie on file-sharing sites again to give back to people who finance its production with their donations. But Bonanno said that they could also change their mind on other distribution methods, like theatrical releases or TV deals, depending on how much money the current donation campaign will bring in.

Just shows that there are many different ways to distribute and fund a movie.