Documentary Streamer SnagFilms Adds Drama, Wider Mobile Distribution

Indie documentary video streaming service SnagFilms making good on some of the changes it proposed earlier this year, when it raised $10 million in funding: it’s officially expanding its 2,300 non-fiction film library to include dramatic, fictional independent features. The second change can be called the “Snag Everywhere” plan, which will include a revamped website and wider mobile distribution.

On the distribution front, the SnagFilms app, currently available on Apple’s iOS, will soon run on Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android and BlackBerry OS platforms, essentially making sure that its videos are able to be accessed across all major smartphones and tablets.

With expanded availability comes an expansion of SnagFilms pay-on-demand titles from its current distribution partnerships with Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and FiOS to DirecTV (NYSE: DTV). Among the services and technologies SnagFilms can now run on: Roku, Boxee, Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE for the Xbox 360. Furthermore, its content can be purchased or rented from iTunes, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), and YouTube Premium, as well as be seen via Vudu and Samsung Media Hub. Finally, it has secured deals to put its app on connected TV sets built by Sony (NYSE: SNE), Samsung and Vizio.

SnagFilms, founded by Ted Leonsis three years ago as a video site for independent documentary films, has timed its technology and content build out at the right moment. Connected TVs and streaming video are becoming much more mainstream.

There also appears to be an opening for additional video services these days. SnagFilm’s mix of free, rental and pay-to-download also fills an appetite that has been whet by Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), which is currently the focus of sudden consumer indignation over its split streaming and DVD pricing plan, which has only become more nettlesome since changing the name of its legacy disc rental service to Qwikster.

But Rick Allen, SnagFilms’ CEO, doesn’t see these the company attempting capitalize on Netflix’s current troubles.

“We consider Netflix one of the most outrageously great companies and we’ve looked to study them and learn from them,” Allen said in an interview with paidContent. “They taught us that audiences love great content and ubiquity — the ability to watch movies wherever and whenever they want. But Netflix has been focusing on more of TV shows and blockbuster entertainment. So, in that sense, it does open up a huge area for independent, foreign film and art house viewing for us.”

As the company gets it content and distribution efforts in place, SnagFilms will now concentrate on refining its advertising strategy.

Up to this point, SnagFilms has relied on a single, “signature” sponsor: Goldman Sachs, which have backed a series of of mini-documentaries with commercial messages from the investment bank inserted in between chapters. “We’re looking to an advertising strategy that rests on a combination of sponsorships, naming rights and traditional display ad units,” Allen said.

The new site should be more helpful in attracting advertisers. In addition to a new, embeddable player, which can possibly carry ads on its skin, there’s additional social features. SnagFilms has set up a hub for “filmanthropy,” which will allow people inspired by a film advocating for a particular cause or issue can connect viewers to volunteer programs, charitable donation activity or just spreading a film’s message.

“We don’t see ourselves as vultures,” Allen said, insisting that the advertising and content changes coming to SnagFilms won’t change the company’s original mission of showcasing films that aimed at the head and the heart. “We’re more like eagles. Everything we’re doing now is about supporting independent film and the audience that cherishes that kind viewing.”

In terms of the details of its fictional fare, SnagFilms has licensed more than 400 narrative films, of which more than 150 are available starting today. Additional films will be licensed and loaded on a weekly basis.

Among the titles that will be available for viewing, there’s Too Young To Die, starring Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis in a thriller based on a true story and reflecting the continuing debate over the death penalty; Women Talking Dirty, a Scottish comedy starring Helena Bonham Carter; and P.U.N.K.S., a comedy featuring Jessica Alba.

Additional independent feature films coming directly to and its free-to-view network include classic such as Josef Von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, and D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance and Abraham Lincoln, along with relatively newer indie faves from directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni (Il Grido) to Richard Linklater (Slacker), Wong Kar-Wai (Happy Together), Adrienne Shelley (Sudden Manhattan).