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Indie Film Distributor Screen Media Starts Streaming Ad-Supported Releases

Theatrical film distributor of Screen Media Ventures is getting into the streaming video business with Popcornflix.com, betting on the idea that viewers will be willing to watch full-length films on-demand while sitting through a commercial interruption every 10 minutes or so.

The site is getting its full launch tomorrow with a few hundred indie films and expects to have 1,500 movies available for streaming by the end of the year, said Gary Delfiner, Screen Media’s SVP of digital distribution.

While the movies are all-indie, they do feature a number of stars, such as Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron, Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Stewart, and others. Given that the films, which span all the usual genres of comedy, romance and horror as well as foreign releases, Screen Media believes it can buttress its main business of sending movies to art houses and cinemas by building an ad-supported VOD service that’s aimed at college-educated, upscale viewers.

The ads for each film include pre-roll, spot ads and banner ads. As Delfiner explained in an interview, the mid-roll ads will run about every 10 minutes, meaning that users watching a 90-minute film will see about nine ads.

It sounds promising, but most online video viewing is still comprised mostly snackable, 3- to 5 minute streams. Still, viewers are increasingly embracing longer form series, like those on Hulu. Of course, there’s also the expectation that “cord-cutting,” while hardly meaningful right now, will eventually become more common.

Aware of the thorny ground Screen Media is treading with regard to programmers and movie studios, Delfiner said the company strictly abides by the windows set down by rights owners. “We’ll do some original releases, but we don’t see ourselves competing with the programmers or studios,” Delfiner said. “We will be on Boxee and Roku. Everybody, no matter which part of the entertainment industry you’re in, is interested in being wherever the viewer wants to be.”

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