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Digital On Demand: Show Us The Numbers

By Indiewire | Indiewire September 10, 2013 at 4:49PM

WME's Liesl Copland gave a rousing speech at the TIFF Doc Conference this afternoon, where she emphasized the need for transparency in the VOD industry and called upon filmmakers to demand it -- especially from iTunes.
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This two-way and participatory nature of where consumerism is going was sold to me in an instant. And while our personal data is certainly a hot button issue these days, I have to give Acxiom credit for bringing the consumer under the tent when it comes to their data gathering goals. And hey, if it means that I'll be receiving fewer credit card offers and more notices about sales on upscale kids' clothes, I'm all for it.

All of this made me think about our own industry, and what could be possible if there was more transparency about our data.

I think a lot about how data relates to our business. As we're all too aware, it can be currency for how our projects ultimately get off the ground.  I got this bug, as I mentioned the last time I gave a talk here in 2009 when I worked for Netflix.

Seeing film lovers put movies in their queue when festival awards were announced half-way around the world sparked both my inner data geek and opened my eyes to where movie consumption - particularly documentary viewing - was going. The big, opaque world of "digital media."

So, that great unknown is clearly here to stay.

And here's what it's telling us: the viewership for documentaries is increasingly happening on "home" entertainment platforms:  Netflix, iTunes, to some degree Hulu and Amazon.  In addition a lot of new platforms have cropped up - a few in that strange and new "crowdsourcing" category I mentioned (a-hem) and many on the consumption side like VHX and Chill.

Theatrical has even become digitally "enabled" and "on demand" with platforms like Gathr and Tugg,  – and hence you have heard of titles like Indie Game, Sound City, Girl Rising and #Regeneration.

Along the path of innovation, the "new" undoubtedly favors the documentary, whose audiences are passionate, leaning in, eager to eventize and highly "gatherable," and increasingly interested in seeing all the great stories that you filmmakers are compelled to tell.

The digital world is rich with data and documentaries are overindexing in the digitally enabled present, so suffice it to say, I found the "novel tactic of openness" mentioned in the Acxiom article reassuring. But not all platforms are equal regarding the data they offer, and hence the title of this talk today -- "Digital on Demand: Show Us the Numbers."

My goal here is to give you a snapshot of data tracking in the digital space now, some input on what we’re missing, and a few solutions to get us closer to that novel idea of "openness."

Of course, the motion picture business is no stranger to data.  We use a lot of consumer research in our industry – MPG theater test screenings, Rentrak home video numbers, Nielsen ratings, online tracking, exit polling, focus groups – there seems to be a measurement system at every point of a film's lifespan.

Studios and agencies like mine pick our poison and try to get ahead of the curve and the world goes round.

This article is related to: TIFF, Filmmaker Toolkit: Distribution, News, VOD, Digital Film Distribution, ITunes, Tech







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