Throw up your devil horns, we’ve got the perfect new streaming service for metalheads. At the very least, at $6.66 per month, Thunderflix is the perfectly-priced new streaming service.
The brainchild of Samuel Douek, the founder and director of the Hola Mexico Film Festival and a former film distributor, Thunderflix can be accessed pretty much anywhere (though not Russia, Douek tells IndieWire he blocked them over the Ukraine invasion) from any mobile device or TV with streaming access. The ad-free niche streamer hosts live shows, documentaries, and behind-the-scenes footage for classic heavy metal, as well as death metal and black metal — apparently those latter two are very different sub-genres.
Thunderflix (in name a ripoff of “Netflix,” sure, but at least they didn’t go with a plus sign) is branded as the world’s first streaming platform dedicated completely to heavy metal. We didn’t fact-check Douek on that one, our journalistic instincts say we probably don’t have to.
“Film has always been my life’s work, but heavy metal has been in my soul since I was a 6-year-old kid,” Douek told IndieWire from Mexico City via Zoom. With Thunderflix, he’s combining both his professional and personal passions.
Douek’s metal obsession began with Guns N’ Roses, which he cops is actually “hard rock,” but adds “the metal community welcomes” them. These days, he mostly enjoys symphonic metal, progressive metal (like Dream Theater), death metal, black metal, and typical heavy metal (Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica).
If GnR makes Douek’s “metal” cut, exactly how far is Douek willing the stretch the genre for Thunderflix? He says Eagles of Death Metal is the softest he’ll go on behalf of curating the streamer: “It’s a band that’s not metal, but it is very well-respected in the metal community,” Douek said. “Some of the musicians there played with metal bands, and they’ve done enough work to carve themselves out a piece of the metal universe.”
Thunderflix is also down with Velvet Revolver, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, and even Aerosmith. Pearl Jam, Douek says, is a “maybe yes, maybe not.” He offered up his own hard “no” during our conversation: “You won’t see Taylor Swift there,” Douek promised. “My daughter likes Taylor Swift, I enjoy Taylor Swift every once in a while, but you’ll never see that there.”
We don’t think you were getting a bunch of Swifties anyway, Sam, let alone the rights. Alternatively, this reporter made a case for ’90s grunge-rockers Bush, and got a solid “maybe.” Van Halen would definitely qualify, Douek says, thank goodness.
Douek’s critics question if there is enough content to fill — and to justify — Thunderflix. “There’s plenty of content, and content is still being made every year,” he says.
Thunderflix compiles that content from film distributors (Douek knows a lot of them from doing the job himself), record labels, and even the bands themselves. “During the pandemic, a lot of bands did great productions of streaming shows because they couldn’t go out and play,” he said.
In some cases, rights for concert DVDs released in the ’90s have reverted back to the bands, but the masters were lost along the way. Thunderflix will not just happily take those, they’ll clean them up, frame by frame, and convert to HD. “People are going to see things that were lost as DVDs, and now they’re going to come back to life,” Douek said.
The top videos, so far, on Thunderflix are, in order: “Murder in the Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story” (pictured above), “Day of the Gusano — Live in Mexico,” the “Death by Metal” trailer, “Death — Death by Metal” itself (in Spanish,” the “Adam the Apostate/Nergal the Heretic” trailer, and “Megadeath — A Night in Buenos Aires.”
On the subject of physical media, Douek actually has a pretty good windowing idea that could apply beyond Thunderflix — perhaps even to the feature-film world, so listen up. Keep making and selling those (concert, in this case) DVDs and Blu-rays, Douek pitches, and after three or four months, license them to Thunderflix. Douek thinks artists should do the same with their physical albums and Spotify.
Speaking of, payout-wise, Thunderflix operates “a bit like Spotify, a bit like Netflix,” Douek said. He pays rights holders a monthly licensing fee and also splits subscription revenue with them, based on views. “I want the guys to promote it (on social media) like they do with Spotify,” he rationalized.
Standing up Thunderflix, which opened as an invite-only beta, has not been cheap or easy. There are those rights costs, technology costs, and marketing costs. “Going from zero, everything is expensive,” Douek said. Right now, his angel investors are family and friends; Douek says he has venture capitalists who are “very interested,” but both sides are taking a wait-and-see approach.
There’s a lot to wait on here; Thunderflix is truly in its infancy. Douek says he is “very happy” with his current sub count, and “way past his benchmark” for Month 1. “I thought it was going to take me a year to get to 1,000, but we’re already well on our way,” he said on Thursday.
If that sounds tiny, well, it is. Douek says he needs to get to just 5,000 subscribers to be “profitable…for now.” Like every streamer is learning these days, the bottom line all depends on the costs. At 100,000 subscribers, Douek says he’ll begin making original content.
That’s a long, long way away. A thousand subscribers at $6.66/month (one can also pay $66.60 upfront for an entire year, but let’s not overly complicate the math for now), Thunderflix’s annual revenue would be just under $80,000; at 5,000 subs, $400,000; at 100,000, it would be $8 million.
The clever price is certainly a marketing gimmick, one that “came very natural(ly)” to Douek. It’s actually more money than the ad-supported tiers for Paramount+ and Peacock; it is 33 cents cheaper than the most basic (ad-free) Apple TV+ and (ad-supported) Netflix plans.
“A lot of streaming platforms I was paying [for], might be like $5, $6, $7 every month. I’d like something on my bill that says ‘6-6-6’ every month,” Douek explained. “We’re metalheads, we know what we want and that number unites us. It’s the perfect number.”
You metalheads can get a 7-day free trial to Thunderflix here.