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IMDb’s Needham: A Play Button on Every Page

IMDb's Needham: A Play Button on Every Page

“We want a play button on every single page of IMDb,” said the popular film site’s founder Col Needham during a SXSW Q&A moderated by indieWIRE‘s Eugene Hernandez.

“Our strategy is to allow people to click the play button and they will be able to legally watch an entire movie for free,” Needham said. The amibitious goal, which Needham described as a broad strategy, has potentially massive ramifications for a site that currently receives three billion page views from 57 million unique users per month. So far, the site has 14,000 full length television shows and “a couple of thousand” full length movies and over 120,000 video items ranging from interviews to trailers and clips. Needham said IMDb will use its Withoutabox unit to give the site a direct connection with filmmakers as well as festivals in its effort to recruit feature length films for that play button. “We’re most excited at the moment with our video component,” said Needham.

Beyond the play button, IMDb is hoping to expand its international reach, and recently launched a German version. “We hope this will connect American and U.K. audiences to international film and vice versa,” said Needham, who launched IMDb in 1995 in Cardiff, Wales. Its genesis was an online chat group during the late ’80s when he got the idea to collect a list of pretty actresses and their films to share with the group of mostly college-aged males. He said that the site received 60 hits in its first few hours. IMDb currently has 1.3 million titles in its database, with 170,000 added in 2008 alone.

“I grew up very passionate about film,” Needham said, recounting how IMDb came about. “In 1990 I saw 1100 films, which many not seem like a lot for some acquisitions people, but I didn’t work in film at the time – I was a full time employee (at Hewlett Packard). The site is driven by my passion and my teams passion for movies.”

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How in the world can filmmakers make films if they give them away for free on IMDB. I’ve heard lots of new model schemes, but none of them produce revenue for the filmmaker. This whole idea of “getting exposure” is a total nonsense. Exposure does not equal revenue or the chance for revenue. Anybody who give it away for free deserves the payment they get. Next they’ll be asking filmmakers to “pay for exposure.” Who started this whole idea of vanity anyway. This makes no sense, and I’ve been in the film business for 40 years. IMDB and Without a Box really need to explain why anyone should let their films be seen for free. It costs money to make films. Who’s making money here? You already know the answer…….


They want every single movie on imdb to play for free? This article is weird, doesnt really explain their strategy… or do they not have one theyre just trying to be on the cutting edge of the free internet. i dont get it, how are movies going to be made in the future if they are all given away for free?

I too would have liked more detail about their business plan. Many of these companies are in a great position to help filmmakers and it would benefit us all if they would consider the economics of film production in their business plans. Building business plans without compensation to filmmakers is not a long term winner – I hope . . .


It seems like Amazon is continuing a massive digital “landgrab” … with the acquisitions of IMDb and Withoutabox (along with Uncut, Kindle, “cloud computing”) … and with Y! and AOL falling apart, Amazon could be the next definition of a consumer portal for entertainment (and news … and commerce … and ….)

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