The reason why is fairly simple - Apple simply doesn't want to work with small distributors .. they want to work with large aggregators who provide a known quality of product. To be blunt - they can't be bothered working with independent films. But there are solutions.
At the SPAA conference this year Julian Enzo spoke about how they got 'The Tunnel' on the iTunes store. For those of you with short memories, 'The Tunnel' is a film which they chose to distribute for free on the internet - as well as selling it to Showtime and having the Australian DVD distribution with Transmission Films .
But it is their iTunes strategy that I found the most interesting. Basically they exploited a loophole in the iTunes store - because while iTunes put up major barriers to prevent indie films appearing in their movie store, they've left the App Store totally open. This means that if you can repackage a film as an App then it is relatively straight forward to get your film released via iTunes.
Which is exactly what they did.
They used Mopix - which provided a fully-branded transparent 'App' which was effectively the film with DVD extras packaged together. It cost about $5k-$6k to go down this path. Since it has launched, downloads have 'well and truly covered the cost' - it will be interesting to see how Mopix price their service once they officially launch.
Another method is to work with an aggregator that Apple is seriously working with. About a year ago the industry was starting to recognise that the Australian film industry really needed a low-cost Australian content aggregator for this reason ... and now someone has stepped in to fill this role. Curiously it isn't one of the distributors such as Transmission - which seems to be a massive lost opportunity for them.
Instead it is ATOM - the Australian Teachers of Media .. a non-profit association better known for creating study guides.
The Dollar breakdown (for going via iTunes) is:
- HD encoding: $5.00 per minute and $300 for submission costs
- SD encoding: $4.00 per minute and $300 for submission costs
- Producers receives 50% of the gross income.
As well as the iTunes movie strategy they use the embedded app method as well. The dollar breakdown (for going via an app) is:
- Embed complete films into apps to play on iPads and iPhones for $890 per title.
- The producer receives 65% of the gross income.
Assuming that the SD/HD encoding still needs to be done for the 'app' strategy, this gives a 120 minute movie as:
- iTunes (as a movie): Under $1k - Producer gets 50% of gross income
- iTunes (as an app): Under $2k - Producer gets 65% of gross income
Clearly both are better than the usual 1/3rd estimation - although remember that you are effectively self-distributing ... they'll make sure it appears in catalogues and the like but you'll be doing the marketing.
The ATOM press release with details is here: http://www.fti.asn.au/news/1348
Self distribution is making more and more sense for niche films.
Image credit: Jason Coloma