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by Indiewire
September 10, 2013 4:49 PM
5 Comments
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Digital On Demand: Show Us The Numbers

Liesl Copland

Video on Demand is a fast-growing distribution sector for films. But unlike theatrical box office reporting, cable companies and other video viewing platforms don't report viewership in a uniform and transparent way, leaving filmmakers and the industry without any benchmarks for where audiences are engaging with their content. Liesl Copland, of WME's Global Finance and Distribution and Digital Media groups discussed the future of Big Data and the need to change the system in a rousing speech at the TIFF Doc Conference this afternoon. She emphasized the need for transparency in the VOD industry and called upon filmmakers to demand it. Read her full speech below:

You may have seen a New York Times article a couple of Sundays ago that profiled one of the largest consumer information gathering companies in the world of "Big Data" - the Acxiom Corporation. Acxiom, founded by a former Microsoft executive Scott Howe, was doing something novel and perhaps even counter-intuitive.

They created a website called Aboutthedata.com that allows you and I to view our consumer profiles - all of that information that is secretly gathered every time we make a purchase, and that advertisers are eager to know so that they can specifically target their products.

Now on this site you not only can view your profile - but you can engage with that data - editing it to better reflect your consumer behavior, and even choosing to opt out of the system completely.

In an industry known for its lack of transparency, this is a truly disruptive move on Acxiom's part.

By crowd-sourcing consumer behavior, Acxiom hopes to breed efficiencies that advertisers have dreamed of and that will make us as consumers less annoyed by those targeted ads.

I decided to check it out for myself. When I looked up my own profile, I realized that the system isn't flawless. For instance, Acxiom pegged me as a "high-volume/low-end retail purchaser" -- which I was truly hurt by, having spent a considerable portion of my disposable income stocking my closet well beyond my means with upscale retail items.

But I decided to take control of my data nonetheless. After filling out a couple of questions and making some changes to my personal information, I suddenly realized that it was not only kind of fun, but revolutionary in that I was playing a role in crafting my consumer identity.

5 Comments

  • Ruth Saunders | September 13, 2013 2:11 AMReply

    ISAN (International Standard Audiovisual Number) is a voluntary numbering system and metadata schema for the unique and persistent identification of any audiovisual works and versions thereof including films, shorts, documentaries, television programs, sports events, advertising, etc.

  • Dan Mirvish | September 11, 2013 3:26 PMReply

    Very nice piece, Liesl, and you raise excellent points. But lack of transparency is only problematic if there's an expectation of making money. If you assume from the start that you won't make any money, then it doesn't matter. An Oscar-nominated director friend asked me yesterday: Wouldn't it make more sense for an investor to just give to a tax-deductible entity than invest in the charade that they'll make their money back? This speaks directly to my piece in Indiewire and HuffPost a few months ago that crowd-funding is fundamentally changing the paradigm of how we get and contribute to films: from an "investment" paradigm (that we've had for the last 100 years) to a "donation" one. If you think of film as an art form (like opera, symphony, public radio, or anything else with tote bags and mugs as perks), then you can quit worrying about crap like volumetrics, data currency and analytic black holes. Embrace the fact that you're going to get screwed on the back end. For years we've treated films as "don't profits"; now we need start thinking of them as "non-profits".

  • J.A.S. | September 17, 2013 2:01 PM

    In agreement with Ted, the "don't profit" model isn't as ubiquitous of a funding format if we can use data to connect with an audience early on. The niche-market distribution culture of the '90s has been subdivided into individual-market distribution based on individual streaming libraries, but filmmakers still make movies for broad theatrical demographics. It's just inconsistent and results in a waste of money and waste of talent as filmmakers can't steer their projects knowledgeably. Knowing how much money your film is worth in this new stream-based marketplace can bring more reliable profits to filmmakers and open us up to a broader range of available films.

  • Ted Hope | September 12, 2013 11:48 AM

    Dan, there can be many finance models, and there certainly is a place for not-for-profit film finance. And frankly not just a place, but a real need. As America is currently virtually fully a market-based entertainment economy, we need need nonprofit funding to diverse the creator base as well as the style and content. That said, it is precisely the market focus that has made the US the most diversified film culture there is. To me the point, we now have the opportunity to diversify the funding models significantly and with that we all will benefit -- audiences, creators, and entrepreneurs.

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