Fandor Returning to SXSW Online 2021 to Celebrate 10 Years Streaming Independent Cinema

Fandor, a unit of Cinedigm streaming independent movies, is returning to SXSW Online 2021, March 16-20, to celebrate 10 years operating as a subscription streaming video service.

Originally introduced in 2011 at the annual Austin, Texas-based media event, Fandor is preparing to launch its next chapter after being acquired in January by Cinedigm. Currently offering thousands of titles across myriad genres, Fandor will soon be available with an updated app as part of the relaunch.

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As part of the anniversary event, Fandor will offer an exclusive screening of Sex, Drugs, and Bicycles from filmmaker Jonathan Blank. The film is a funny and provocative exposé on Holland’s social democracy and will be available to stream throughout the duration of SXSW.

Cinedigm plans to leverage the Fandor library, technology, engineering and distribution capabilities to its global footprint of more than 900 million connected devices. The home entertainment distributor/OTT video operator anticipates Fandor could reach seven figure subscriber levels within the next 24 to 30 months.

Fandor plans to stream titles from The Film Detective, which it acquired in December 2020. Cinedigm also plans on ramping up new and existing content partnerships, in addition to relaunching “Keyframe,” Fandor’s digital publication of written articles and video essays dedicated to covering the art of cinema. The goal is to relaunch the service in the coming quarter.

“We intend to assemble an editorial team of film bloggers from around the globe and work with film festivals and independent producers to build a united form of independent cinema discovery,” Phil Hopkins, president of Fandor and The Film Detective, said in a statement.

Cinedigm will continue to offer the service ad-free for a fee, but also plans to offer a free, ad-supported on-demand tier as well as a linear streaming channel to further broaden the service’s reach to audiences of all viewing preferences.

Cinedigm Acquires Fandor Streaming Service

Cinedigm has acquired Fandor, a subscription streaming service for independent films, documentaries and international features.

Fandor has a catalog of more than 4,600 film titles from more than 400 film companies.

Cinedigm plans to leverage its content library, technology, engineering and distribution capabilities to rapidly expand Fandor’s content offering, relaunch the service’s apps and dramatically expand distribution to Cinedigm’s global footprint of more than 900 million connected devices, according to a press release.

Cinedigm will continue to offer the service (currently at $5.99 per month) ad-free, but also plans to offer a free, ad-supported on-demand tier as well as a linear streaming channel.

Cinedigm plans to draw from a pool of more than 7,000 relevant film titles in its library, including thousands of classic, cult and foreign titles from streaming service The Film Detective, which it acquired in December 2020, according to the release.

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Cinedigm also plans to relaunch Keyframe, Fandor’s web and video-based publication dedicated to covering the art of cinema.

Phil Hopkins, president of Cinedigm’s Film Detective division, will oversee Fandor and Keyframe, with the goal of relaunching the service in the coming quarter.

“This acquisition of Fandor, coming on the heels of our Film Detective acquisition, solidifies Cinedigm’s position as the leading global streaming company for independent films,” Chris McGurk, Cinedigm chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “As a key element of our recently announced streaming rollup strategy, Fandor will immediately benefit from our streaming distribution muscle, huge library of independent films, Matchpoint technology, cost savings and infrastructure and synergies with our wide portfolio of enthusiast streaming channels. We fully expect an immediate EBITDA uplift from Fandor and strong revenue and profit growth going forward.”

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“The paradox of the streaming revolution is that it has never been harder to discover classic, essential and new independent and foreign films,” Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer and president of Cinedigm Networks, said in a statement. “The founders of Fandor had the right idea, launching very early in the streaming growth cycle while still establishing a strong and resilient brand and viewer base. Our mission at Cinedigm is to enable viewers, including independent film enthusiasts, to stream their passions, and I can’t think of a streaming service that is truer to our mission than Fandor.”

“The opportunity to leverage Fandor’s passionate community of independent film enthusiasts will be integral in the service’s growth,” Phil Hopkins, president of the Film Detective, said in a statement. “Being able to communicate and collaborate with this community of content creators, bloggers, and editorial writers will allow us to significantly expand Fandor into the global focal point for streaming independent films, documentaries, classics and foreign films.”

Gravitas Ventures Launches Indie Film SVOD Service

Gravitas Ventures has bowed a subscription-based over-the-top video service – dubbed GravitasMovies.com – offering its branded slate of indie films for $4.99 a month.

The service aims to fill the void left by WarnerMedia’s shuttered FilmStruck platform, in addition to competing services such as Fandor.com, Shout! Factory TV, Shudder, Tribeca Shortlist and Le Cinema Club, among other services catering to fans of eclectic content.

GravitasMovies.com launched with about 1,000 titles available on Comcast Cable’s Xfinity X1, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, among other Android and iOS devices.

“At Gravitas we have always taken pride in being a distributor that can connect the artist and the consumer,” Michael Murphy, president of the 13-year-old distributor, said in a statement. “By launching our SVOD service, we are taking the next step in bringing our vast young library of films to a global audience.”

Gravitas was acquired in 2017 by Red Arrow Studios – a unit of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 Media.

“Given the volume, diversity of programming, and refresh rate, we have one of the best value propositions in the marketplace today for fans of independent films and documentaries and plan to keep the offering fresh and new for years to come,” said Murphy.

 

Summit Explores OTT’s Promise and Pitfalls

The opportunities and pitfalls of the over-the-top market were the leading subjects of the OTT & Video Distribution Summit taking place Aug. 2 in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Consumers are cutting the cord with their cable companies and moving to OTT because of its superior value, including better choice and lower cost.

“Consumers have basically said, ‘We’re paying too much. I don’t want to watch all those channels,’” said panelist Mickey Alpert, president and CEO, Merisco Solutions, and former EVP at Cablevision.

“Cable companies are literally the most hated companies in America,” said keynote speaker Jeff Binder, EVP, home and entertainment, T-Mobile U.S., because they are regional monopolies and don’t have to cater to customers.

In addition to OTT services peeling away video subscribers, another threat to cable is the coming 5G technology, which will be a “game-changing technology,” he said. Cable companies that have been able to lean on broadband fees, even as cord cutters have eschewed buying a video subscription, may find customers can get rid of broadband with 5G.

“There are changes around connectivity that are coming that are probably a bigger story in some ways I think than the story about how the content industry is changing,” Binder said.

“4G changed the way all of you use your phone; 5G is going to change the way all of us use our home as well as our phone,” he said.

For now, though, it’s the chance to get the content they want at a lower price that is drawing consumers to OTT services.

“Customers value choice and flexibility,” said panelist Kathy Payne, head of content acquisition management, Amazon Channels. “At Amazon, we’ve decided we’d like to offer channels a la carte.”

Amazon Channels aggregates such OTT subscription services as HBO, Showtime and Starz. There are more than 150 channels offered in the United States, Payne said, not to mention the hundreds available internationally.

“We’ve heard from customers loud and clear that they like the option to just buy channels a la carte,” she said. “It’s really easy to come in and pick what they want.”

In addition to a la carte there are bundled OTT services that are making a go of it, such as Philo, which started in colleges. “It’s a TV package that hasn’t really been available before. [It’s a service] without paying this huge amount for sports,” noted keynoter Andrew McCollum, Philo CEO.

There are also ad-supported services that offer programming to consumers for free. Roku Channel has aggregated some of those. Roku’s Seth Walters, VP, demand partnerships, called it “our sandbox for creating our most premium ad-supported service on Roku.”

Making a go of it as a new OTT service is a challenge. The number of domestic OTT services has reached more than 200, with the three top players dominating, noted Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates.

“It’s Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and everybody else,” he said, adding there is a second tier of services, such as HBO, Showtime, Starz and CBS, that range from 1 million to 5 million subscribers.

A smaller service must differentiate itself and appeal to a niche, rather than try to compete with the big pocketed broad services offered by Netflix and others, he said.

“If you cannot specifically identify who your customers are then you’re probably not going to be successful,” he said.

Offering exclusive or new content helps, as consumers rank new release or original content as most important, according to Parks research.

Many OTT services overlook marketing, and that’s a mistake, Sappington said. Startups “don’t realize the marketing costs involved,” he said.

He praised the marketing efforts of independent film streaming service Fandor, mentioned in a panel at the summit. Panelist Felice Oper, COO of Fandor, said they had sold 290,000 subscriptions through a Costco bundle with subscription theater ticket service MoviePass in just two and a half months.

“It was a very successful transaction,” Oper said. “We’re still working with Costco.”

Keynoter Darcy Antonellis, of Amdocs-owned Vubiquity, talked about the international reach of the OTT business and the services her company supplies it, noting her team is often on a plane.

“We all have to be thinking global,” she said.

“It’s all about understanding where the audiences are,” she added. “It’s an on-demand world, but it has to be in a form and a language for a particular culture.”

She offered an anecdote about a viewing spike at 3 p.m. that they found involved parents waiting for their kids to get out of school. She said the industry must start to understand how to service consumers when and where they need entertainment.

A prominent woman in the industry, she also addressed the dearth of women in the entertainment and technology business. Having mentored girls 8-13, she noticed, “You could almost set your watch, because of peer pressure, when they were gonna shut off STEM [science, technology, engineering and math].”

“It’s a real challenge for our country,” she said. “You don’t want any room as smart as one brain, and you don’t want any room as smart as a collection of similar brains.”

Fandor Movie Streaming Service Names New Executive Positions

Movie subscription streaming service Fandor has upped Felice Oper to the chief operating officer position. Oper, who previously served as general counsel and chief distribution officer, will continue as general counsel.

As COO, Oper assumes oversight of the programming and marketing groups, as well as the product and engineering teams.

Separately, Fandor named TS Ramakrishnan to the chief product engineering officer position. He previously headed engineering for Yahoo! Messenger and mobile, and was VP of product engineering at Facebook.

Under Oper’s leadership, Fandor’s subscription base has grown more than 10 times, underscored by OTT partnerships with Amazon Channels, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream and YouTube Red.

She engineered alliances with MoviePass and Costco, launching the sale of the “Movie Lover’s Package” both on Costco.com and MoviePass.com. Fandor launches on Vizio TVs this spring.

“Felice has proven she is committed to helping Fandor reach new heights in the OTT space,” CEO Larry Aidem said in a statement. “Her exemplary knowledge and dedication … continue to support the growth and development of partnerships that makes movie selections more accessible to our customers.”

Aidem said Ramakrishna would help expand movie and editorial content to subs, which in turn affords Fandor the opportunity to grow the brand.

“[TS’] breadth of experience in Silicon Valley and the digital space will enable Fandor to further develop the company’s user experience, enabling us to further grow the Fandor community,” added Oper.

 

MoviePass Owner Touts Data, Deals

Helios & Matheson Analytics, a majority owner of theatrical subscription service MoviePass, Feb. 12 announced that MoviePass had, in the last several weeks, signed multiple contracts on both per-title and slate-wide bases with several Hollywood studios and independent distributors.

“With the introduction of these new services, MoviePass delivers on revenue beyond its base of more than 2 million subscribers, allowing studios and distributors to more accurately target spending for advertising, reach the right audiences more effectively, and identify the most effective markets for special events,” Helios & Matheson stated in a release.

The relationships with studios and distributors are currently producing revenue in the following areas, the release stated: advertising and consumer turnout, A/B testing of sales of DVDs and streaming with similar content, a suite of services for A/B testing for marketing creative, audience attribution, and exclusive fan-based events.

Additionally, studios utilize MoviePass platform marketing techniques such as email marketing, targeted push notifications, custom premium title placement within the MoviePass application, and other features based on individual MoviePass subscriber movie-going behavior, the release stated.

Exhibitor benefits when partnered with MoviePass include priority theater placement in the MoviePass application, e-Ticketing — no MoviePass card needed — box office purchases, and marketing opportunities within the MoviePass application.

“Partnering with MoviePass allows us to provide a value option to a segment of our customers that doesn’t impact our traditional pricing structure,” said Michael Barstow, director of analytics and business development at Main Street Theatres, an exhibitor with about 50 screens nationwide, in a statement. “We are a small exhibitor circuit and MoviePass is another piece of the puzzle that elevates us above our competitors and helps us to better serve movie-goers. MoviePass is rapidly growing its customer base in our markets and we decided that we wanted to be their theater. Since partnering with MoviePass, we have had multiple customers reach out to us and thank us for being the only e-ticketing partner in their market.”

Bernadette McCabe, SVP of exhibitor relations and business strategy at MoviePass, has been spearheading strategic initiatives to educate exhibitors about the service that MoviePass provides, according to the release.

“We are striving to be good partners to exhibitors and they are starting to see the value in MoviePass,” she said in a statement. “Our MoviePass-specific marketing efforts help drive people to our exhibitor’s partners’ theaters and enhances the movie-going experience for their customers. Every person we drive to a theater allows the exhibitors to take in possible incremental revenue from concession sales and other theater-specific revenue streams, so we continue to benefit the movie-going ecosystem.”

“We are thrilled to see that the studios and exhibitors have embraced MoviePass,” said MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe, in a statement. “For the first time, studios, distributors and movie theaters have been able to innovate beyond their traditional marketing and advertising tools. They now can move from impression-driven advertising model to a model based solely on conversions. In the old days, the studios would pay advertising dollars without the ability to track results. With the MoviePass platform, the studios pay MoviePass only when the MoviePass subscriber goes to the movie. This is the most targeted and direct advertising that Hollywood has ever had at the studio level.”

“We always knew from day one that MoviePass was about big data and understanding the movie-goer’s habits — and being able to monetize that data,” said Ted Farnsworth, chairman and CEO of Helios and Matheson Analytics, in a statement. “Now, not only has this been verified, but it is quickly becoming a widely accepted way to market and brand new films in Hollywood. We are excited to be a part of a new revolution in this sector.”

In other MoviePass news, the theatrical subscription service announced a new bundle with streaming service Fandor. The annual offer lowers the MoviePass monthly price from $9.95 to $7.95 and is coupled with an annual Fandor subscription. Subscribers who sign up will be billed $115.35 ($7.95 a month plus a $19.95 processing fee) and will receive one full year of MoviePass and one full year of unlimited streaming from Fandor. Fandor streams more than 5,000 movies from around the world from more than 500 genres that include Hollywood classics, undiscovered gems and festival favorites, according to a MoviePass release.

MoviePass, Fandor Extend Costco Joint-Sub Deal

Movie-theater subscription service MoviePass and indie-film streaming service Fandor have extended their Movie Lovers Package offer at Costco post holidays.

The package deal for both services is available to Costco members for a flat fee of $89.99 and non-Costco members for $89.99 plus a 5% surcharge, and covers a year of membership for both MoviePass and Fandor.

The offer will only be available online at Costco.com until Jan. 10, 2018.

Subscribers who sign up for the one-year subscriptions will receive digital codes providing instant access to Fandor’s library of more than 5,000 films, as well as a year’s worth of in-theater experiences through MoviePass. New members will need to enter each code on the respective MoviePass and Fandor websites in order to complete the sign-up process.

MoviePass introduced its $9.95 per month subscription plan in August 2017, as part of a majority acquisition of MoviePass by Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. Since the rollout of the $9.95-per-month plan, the MoviePass subscriber base has grown to more than 1 million subscribers in just 4 months, according to the company.

Fandor streams a library of more than 5,000 handpicked, award-winning movies from around the world, according to the company. With more than 500 genres that include Hollywood classics, undiscovered gems, and the latest festival favorites, Fandor provides curated entertainment and original editorial content on desktop, iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, and throughout social media.