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Making Sense of the B2Bs: IFILM, Showbiz Data, Creative Planet, REELPLAY, and FilmBazaar

Making Sense of the B2Bs: IFILM, Showbiz Data, Creative Planet, REELPLAY, and FilmBazaar




by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

(indieWIRE/ 8.18.00) -- For indie filmmakers, the idea of a
business-to-business website (B2B) is an odd concept. With the
term "B2B" bandied about frequently on financial news programs,
dotcom industry trade publications and the business pages of
the newspaper, the idea often feels way too big business and not
very relevant to the independent film and video maker. Yet, there
are a number of B2B sites catering to independent filmmakers,
determined to attract an off-Hollywood site visitor.


The names of some of these sites are probably familiar -- IFILM,
ShowBIZ Data, Creative Planet, Reelplay.com, and Filmbazaar. Over ,the past few days, indieWIRE spoke with the heads of these companies
to discuss the state of the film B2B business, the changing dotcom
marketplace and their strategies for survival.


News touting the entertainment industry dotcom has tended to
focus on the array of streaming sites like AtomFilms, IFILM,
ReelShort, AlwaysI, Shortbuzz, and others -- websites that sought
acceptance from the indies.


"Independent filmmakers have immediately adopted the Internet and
new technologies," commented ShowBIZ Data CEO Oliver Eberle.
Continuing he added that sites which stream short films from
independent filmmakers have "been a great platform for the independent
filmmaker."


The B2B sites have their eyes set on Hollywood, but certainly not at
the expense of the independent filmmaker. Dubbed "The Entertainment
Seach Engine," ShowBIZ Data (www.showbizdata.com) contains databases
and information that seem targeted at the Hollywood industry professional,
but Eberle was quick to single out its efforts at Festivals, including
the official partner site of the recent Cannes Market
(www.cannesmarket.com). Eberle is after the festival and film market
business, admitting that he and other sites are all currently competing
to be the official partners of high-profile industry events. In fact,
the Cannes Market effort was a partnership with Film Finders, a company
recently acquired by competitor, IFILM.


Actually, IFILM (www.ifilm.com) would appear to be a competitor to a
number of the larger B2B efforts out there given its acquisition of numerous
industry resources, including the popular Hollywood Creative Directory
and FilmFinders. The site underwent a major restructuring, shifting
from a site that only offered downloadable movies, to a B2B player and
a directory for films at any number of sites, from Atom Films to Z.com.
Meanwhile, Its IFILM Pro brand is targeting industry insiders and
assistants in Tinsel Town, serving as a place for industry editorial
content and a virtual water cooler where would-be players can vent.


In response to questions from indieWIRE, IFILM CEO Kevin Wendle commented,
"What's crucial is the ability to attract professionals to your
site -- what distinguishes IFILM is the fact that we have thousands
of entertainment industry professionals visiting us every day for
news, tracking boards, and other community services."


One way that the site is doing that is through its editorial content,
according to Wendle. Yet, as IFILM pursues coverage of festivals,
the industry, and filmmakers, other sites are scaling back on such
an approach.


Just days after announcing a $38 million round of company financing
last week, Creative Planet (www.creativeplanet.com) confirmed that
it laid off thirty employees and effectively wiped out original
industry editorial content as a part of its strategy. The company
has decided to abandon industry articles but will still pursue content
aimed at people who are specifically involved in the production
process, such cinematographers or directors. The move is consistent
with Creative Planet's goal of "building Internet based and wireless
based production management sysems," according to CEO Allen DeBevoise.


Creative Planet is determined to become a "production management
solution," according to DeBevoise, offering tools that help producers
"do their job more efficiently. Watch for options like "wireless AD,"
a wireless tablet for creating and modifying call sheets.


Distinguishing itself from IFILM, DeBevoise offered that the IFILM is
both a B2B site and a "business to consumer" (B2C) site, targeting
the "above the line" side.


Making distinctions between the sites is in fact important since each
of the B2Bs is following a different strategy and targeting a distinct
audience within the film community.


"The online entertainment space is made up a variety of companies that
are quite different -- and they should not be lumped together for for
purposes of evaluating their viability," commented Reelplay Chairman
Mark Litwak. "Some companies, such as AtomFilms, are content provider
companies who netcast content to generate revenues. Others, like
Creative Planet try to make the production process more efficient
via the Internet. And then there are the virtual markets which allow
buyers and sellers to more efficiently conduct business."


Commenting on the value of such "virtual markets," Litwak explained,
"We think our service will one day be considered as indispensable to
sales agents as the telephone or fax."


The Reelplay site (www.reelplay.com) is connecting buyers and sellers,
offering a marketplace where distributors can connect to those who are
selling films or television programs. Notably, the site is targeting
independent filmmakers through a partnership at next month's IFFM in
New York. The IFFM site, which will fully launch in about ten days,
is the only place for advance comprehensive information on IFFM films,
including films websites, synopses, credits and contact info, as well
as streaming trailers.


Another B2B connecting buyers and sellers, Filmbazaar
(www.filmbazaar.com), is targeting independent filmmakers through
an initiative dubbed the "Independent Outreach Program" (IOP).
The company distinguishes its approach from competitors by explaining
that the IOP offers a base of "pre-qualified buyers and sellers" who
can be pitched indiefilms by budget, category or language.


The battle for dominance in the "virtual marketplace" is clearly
heating up as CEO's witness skepticism about film dotcoms and as
they face difficulties raising additional financing for their
efforts. Filmbazaar.com CEO Kyle Scrimgeour highlighted the
company's longevity as a key factor in their favor.


"What makes us different is that we have done this for the last three
years," Scrimgeour said, "We built a base around the technology, its
done, we are not just talking about it."


"With the NASDAQ bubble bursting, and the collapse of such companies
as DEN, it has become harder for all dotcom companies to raise venture
capital," commented Reelplay's Litwak. "Only the best ideas with the
strongest management teams will receive funding."


Will the industry and filmmakers seize the opportunities offered by
the B2B sites quickly enough to give the websites a foothold large
enough to guarantee their survival? The refining of business plans
and the talk of consolidation within the space show the concerns
raised by each of the executives interviewed.


"It's a litle bit crowded," commented Scrimgeour. "I think in the
next year there you will see consolidation," offered Litwak, adding,
"The weaker companies will go out of business or be acquired."
Showbiz Data's Eberle agreed, asking, "How many really big players
can this market sustain?"


"The market has certainly changed, but that creates opportunities
for the companies that are well funded, with strong strategic partners,
and a long-term vision," summarizes IFILM's Wendle. "The change in
the market has stopped a dozen would-be competitors, and that cuts
a lot of clutter in our space."


"Everybody has been very competitive, I think people will have to
start charging and monetize their business model," offers Eberle."
Over the next 6 - 12 months, free will go a way to a certain extent,
you can't keep spending tens of millions of dollars and have no
revenue to show show for it."

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