LAES Keynoter Sondheim: Indies Must Maintain Legacy Disc Business While Embracing Digital Futures

Independent suppliers need to maximize existing businesses while embracing the new digital marketplace, said keynote speaker Bill Sondheim, president of the Cinedigm Entertainment Group, during his “State of the Industry” keynote presentation at the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit July 17.

The LAES event, held at the Loews Hollywood July 17-18, is presented by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

While “DVD and the physical formats in general will not be the longtime revenue drivers we’ve all enjoyed over the last 25 years,” he noted that there are “large demographics” that still like the medium because it is familiar, easy to use and affordable.

Therefore, he said, “I think it would be foolish” to abandon the segment prematurely,” he cautioned. In fact, Cinedigm’s disc business, which had experienced declines, flattened in 2017 and is now growing in 2018, in part due to smarter retail placement, interest in 4K Ultra HD, mult-pack sets and specially packaged products, he said.

Still, digital distribution is the “revenue engine” going forward, “and unlike its physical predecessor it’s taking many shapes and sizes, due in part to its more consumer-responsive nature.”

“I often say digital is the democratization of entertainment consumption,” he said. “Content distributors, retail shelves, they no longer decide what wins. The omnipresent availability of digital content anywhere and everywhere allows the consumer to be in charge.”

With digital content available through EST, transactional VOD and subscription streaming, he said,  content owners need to find consumers on the platforms and services they like. That’s why Cinedigm was early in embracing the OTT market and created three OTT channels.

“You need to be platform agnostic,” he said. “Confidently follow the money regardless of the platform.”

He added, “Tech is playing an increasingly role in content distribution. It’s no longer entirely accurate to say content is king.”

In that same vein, data is key.

“We put a great deal of focus and investment in securing extensive and detailed data,” he said. “And we have a strong culture of  analytics and self-reflection. Cinedigm looks at each piece of content to determine the right demographics. It starts and ends with the consumer.

“And once we’ve determined who will want a particular piece of content, then we determine where that consumer shops. That could mean Walmart or Best Buy, but it can also mean Netflix or Amazon or iTunes or even something more unique, like Crunchyroll.”

Noting that there were “no major studios or retailers” in the audience, Sondheim pointed out that indies are critical innovators. They “take chances on innovative content,” he said.


Seventh Annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit Opens Tomorrow

The seventh annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit opens tomorrow (Tuesday, July 16) with a focus on independent product, both physical and digital, as well as the booming OTT marketplace.

The trade show, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), runs for two days at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, Calif.

The 2018 Los Angeles Entertainment Summit is centered on one-on-one business meetings between independent content providers and retailers and streaming services, the EMA said back in May, when the event’s dates were announced.

The summit also features the  first-ever OTT Channels conference – a day of research presentations, sessions with industry thought leaders, and an exploration of opportunities in subscription video on demand and ad-supported video on demand.

LAES continues to provide an opportunity for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) to raise funds.

The event opens July 17 with a morning welcome session, featuring a CFF update from LAES co-chair Mark Horak and an EMA update from Mark Fisher, the association’s president and CEO.

Then comes a research super-session moderated by Media Play News publisher Thomas K. Arnold, featuring research presentations by GfK Entertainment, IHS Markit, Nielsen and the NPD Group.

Next is a spotlight presentation from Tobias Queesser, cofounder of Cinelytic.

Bill Sondheim, president of the Cinedigm Entertainment Group, will deliver the keynote address at 9:30 a.m., followed by the Independent Studio Home Entertainment Awards.

The OTT Channels conference will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a lineup of speakers and panelists assembled by conference chair Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm Corp.

And from 4 to 6 p.m., the Digital EMA Forum will bring together digital retailers, studios, independent content providers, and service providers to hear the latest research on digital home entertainment and discover how retailers and content providers are streamlining the digital supply chain through common practices.

The day ends with a cocktail party sponsored by FandangoNOW.

Day two of LAES, Wednesday, July 18, is devoted to business meetings and a networking lunch.

Docurama Adds Cargo Film & Releasing Content, Support and a Subscription Fee

Cinedigm’s ad-supported Docurama over-the-top video service June 14 announced a programming and marketing partnership with Cargo Film & Releasing.

The company signed a pact with David Piperni, founder of New York-based Cargo, which specializes in acquiring non-fiction features. Under the agreement, Piperni will be responsible for acquiring programming for Docurama, and curating the channel’s content library.

Piperni and his staff will handle many aspects of marketing for the channel, from day-to-day social media engagement and direct-to-consumer campaigns, to building strategies to capitalize on audience trends.

Cargo will also identify projects, producers, and talent who fit the brand of the channel, creating opportunities for producing original content such as behind-the-scenes exclusives and first-hand interviews associated with respective documentaries.

“This is [Cargo’s] specialty — they know what works,” Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group, said in a statement. “They have rich industry relationships with top producers and talent, and they understand what audiences are looking for. Their expertise and insight [are] truly an invaluable part of Docurama’s expansion.”

As a result, the four-year-old channel will now include premium programming for an undisclosed subscription fee by the end of the month.

Docurama’s library features hundreds of feature films, shorts, and series, as well as interviews and film festival coverage.

Programming includes Patti Smith memoir, “Patti Smith: Dream of Life”, eight-part presidential event, “JFK – A New World Order”;sports fan profile “Losing Lebron”; Orca adventure “The Whale”, narrated by Ryan Reynolds; hip hop culture documentary “Style Wars”, and exposé, “They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain.”

“Cargo is dedicated to discovering cutting-edge films from all over the world and this new partnership allows us to bring these offerings to a whole new audience,” said Piperni.