Can SnagFilms become the Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) of the independent film sector?
Washington, DC-based SnagFilms, which offers access to a library of about 3,000 indie movie titles for viewing on over 100 types of digital devices, took another step in that direction Monday when it announced an additional funding and financing to the tune of $7 million.
The infusion marks yet another expansion of a four-year-old company that has quickly grown into perhaps the most potent digital distribution force in indie film today. Few companies in the movie business beyond the major studios have the ability to distribute through as many digital VOD and streaming channels.
The company’s emergence has coincided with the roiling of the independent film sector, which has seen production funding and traditional theatrical and TV distribution channels dry up in the global economic downturn. There is now an ample supply of inexpensively produced indie film in need of some kind of distribution, and companies like SnagFilms and New Video have positioned themselves to be the ones to lead the charge in releasing this content into streaming and VOD channels. Unlike, say, New Video, however, SnagFilms has its own streaming destination that plays on pretty much every digital device.
Rick Allen, SnagFilms’s CEO, said the money will be used to further expand the company’s library and market its films. It also will be used to augment its technology. “Going up on more than 100 devices and platforms was not an inconsiderable task,” Allen told paidContent, noting that the company plans to begin streaming to Apple’s iPhone within the next 90 days.
SnagFilms’ viewing module now plays on 95 percent of tablets, including the iPad and Kindle Fire, all Android smart phones, and connected TV devices including Roku and Boxee. The company also conducts distribution to a wide range of cable/satellite VOD service providers, as well as digital and electronic sell-through services.
“The question really is what will become the premiere destination for independent film, and Snag has been making some very smart moves,” said Marc Schiller, founder and CEO of BOND Strategy and Influence, which consults producers and entertainment companies on digital marketing.
SnagFilms’ viewership is still in the “low millions” in terms of unique monthly users, Allen said. But Schiller thinks that given its reach and growing catalog, the company has the opportunity to establish a brand presence in indie-movie streaming similar to what Netflix has built in the realm of mainstream film. “Netflix only is the only company that I can think of that’s available on this many devices and platforms,” Allen added.
All of SnagFilms’ current investors participated in this latest round, including chairman Ted Leonsis, and Steve and Jean Case’s Case Foundation Ventures LLC. Meanwhile, veteran media executive Terry Semel, who joined the company’s board last week, also participated.