Want Your Indie Movie on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes? Here's How

So your independent movie's finally made! You've planned it, shot it, and after months of meticulous editing, your baby's ready to share with the world.

But now what? How exactly do you get it out to the world besides burning DVDs and selling it the old-fashioned way?

If that question just blindsided you, don't worry. There's hope. Read on to find out how you can get wide online distribution through the more familiar stores including Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand (VOD), iTunes, Hulu, and even Cable VOD. 

The Current Digital Movie Market

We now have online distribution platforms -- the new, more merciful version of aggregators (aka middlemen). Aggregators previously charged filmmakers a processing fee for coding their movies and used revenue sharing, with some rates as high as 50%, and that's before calculating the net revenue from the online retailers.

Lights Online Film School breaks the online retailer revenues down:

iTunes pays 70%, so if your movie is $9.99, your online distributor gets $7.

Amazon VOD and Hulu splits it 50/50, so your $9.99 movie yields about $5.

Netflix, on the other hand, purchases a license to show your film for 1-2 years, so it doesn't pay "per turn", so the payment is different.

With the old 50/50 revenue sharing model, only about $3.50 trickles down to you from iTunes sales, and only about $2.50 from Amazon.

You have 2 online distribution options (and one on the way):

Distribber (2009): now an IndieGoGo company, Distribber charges a $1,295 (or $1,595 for HD) up-front fee for encoding, quality control (QC) (reviewing your film for cinematic, entertainment, and audio quality), and iTunes placement, which takes an average of 90 days.

However, if you want distribution to the other online retailers, they're ad-hoc costs. For Amazon VOD + iTunes, they're currently offering a free waiver, but otherwise costs $95. Hulu + iTunes = $399 ($750 by itself).

Netflix Watch Instantly + iTunes = $250 (SD) or $395 (HD); $595 (SD) or $795 (HD) (by itself).

Cable/Satellite VOD: $249 submission fee (which is currently waived, so free), then $5,000 for placement in 80% of nationwide VOD households. Read more here.

If your movie's approved by the retailers, you keep 100% of the movie's revenue from retailers, then you pay Distribber an annual $79 processing fee to receive sales reports and payments (via check or PayPal). You can receive payments monthly or quarterly.

If iTunes rejects your movie, Distribber refunds your submission fee minus $39 for processing.

DiGi Distribution (2012): though started in 1999 as a traditional distributor, DiGi Distribution's current incarnation was born in 2012, still following the old aggregator revenue-share model (it takes 30%), but is still cost-effective.

You pay a $35 submission fee for encoding, QC, and online store placement. Furthermore, the Company markets your film for you (a movie website and trailer are required; they can build a website for you).

DiGi Distributor pays you 70% of your movie's revenue from Amazon, iTunes, and Hulu. With Cable VOD, DiGi Distribution pays you "close to 50%" since each cable/satellite operator pays differently. You receive payments monthly, via check or PayPal.

Broadcast-X (coming soon): Lights Online Film School's "one-stop-shop" platform will offer standard and HD video hosting services, and a CMS for you to build your responsive (mobile and computer-friendly) website, embed your videos, and offer e-commerce functionality.

Basically, Broadcast-X will give you a self-contained home for your movie. You'll be able to direct consumers to your Broadcast-X site, where they can watch the trailer, learn more about the movie, and if they want to download it, they'll be able to right there on the site.

Have you successfully distributed an indie film online before? What was your experience? Let us know in a comment below.

Flickr photo by Shardayyy.


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About the Author: Mellissa Thomas is a freelance writer, blogger, web copywriter, copyeditor, proofreader; and authors three blogs: E.i. Geek (Blogger), her writing blog Mellifluity Inc. (WP), and The Tenderfoot Files, the online platform for her five-ebook suspense series (WP). 

She has also self-published two books: a weekly devotional entitled From a Babe: A Weekly Devotional, and the first ebook of her 5-ebook suspense series, Abstracted: Episode 1 of the Tenderfoot Series, both available on Amazon.
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