A field guide to ad-free distribution platforms

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UPDATED: As major content providers and independent creators alike experiment with various new ways of making money off web video, a number of new sites are popping up, rejecting the idea of ad-supported business models. Nothing is ever free, though: To make up for the lack of ads, all of these services include some form of direct payment to the platform, which is then split with the content creator. In exchange, these companies provide viewers with premium viewing experiences and exclusive content, and provide creators with direct monetization of their work. How do these companies match up? Find out below.

Distrify

Founders: Peter Gerard (CEO) and Andy Green
Founded: June 2011 (soft launch)
Content it hosts: Primarily feature-length films, though there are plans available for short films and web series
Can any creator use it? Yes.
What the creator gets: 70 percent of every sale. If anyone registered as an affiliate shares a film, however, they receive 10 percent of the revenue for all sales made from that location, which Distrify and the creator split equally. The first film you upload to Distrify is free — uploading subsequent films costs $3.17 per month per film.
What it costs the viewer: Creators set their own pricing.
What makes it different? According to international business manager Stephen Green via email, “Distrify puts rights holders in complete control… You can sell films on our platform, and use our technology to build your own platform. Our affiliate scheme incentivizes sharing, so your platform is not just a destination, it’s a launchpad for the viral distribution of your films. We have placed a payment gateway within the Player, and by aligning the point of discovery with the point of sale, a film-lover doesn’t have to leave that site to buy or watch the film. It’s quite simply the easiest way to watch a film.”

Dynamo

Founders: Will Coghlin and Rob Millis (Millis runs Dynamo full-time)
Founded: March 2010
Content it hosts: Primarily independent film, though not exclusively — examples including the web series Anyone But Me, which used the player for a fundraising drive.
Can any creator use it? Yes.
What the creator gets: 70 percent of each sale.
What it costs the viewer: Creators set their own prices, as well as the length of rental period.
What makes it different? According to Millis via email, “Dynamo Player offers producers and distributors the fastest, most effective way to offer online rentals on their own sites, Facebook pages and anywhere else online without any up-front cost. Simply upload, set your price and then embed the video player on your own site or anywhere else online. We give you total control over pricing, rental period, geoblocking, and the ability to include all the bonus content you want, or bundle a complete season of episodes for a single price.”

Just the Story.tv

Founders: Carter Mason (CEO) and Matthew Arevalo (COO)
Founded: February 2012
Content it hosts: Web originals including previously-released series like Asylum, GOLD, and Vampire Zombie Werewolf. This spring, JTS will have the exclusive on the first seasons of Generic Girl and Continuum, as well as the second season of Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour.
Can any creator use it? JTS is curated, but creators can submit their series for consideration.
What the creator gets: A certain percentage of 50 percent of the subscription revenue, determined by viewcounts. As Mason explains via email, “If a show got 10 percent of the views in March, it will receive 10 percent of the creator’s pool. 50 percent of all subscription revenue we receive goes into the pool.”
What it costs the viewer: $3.99 a month for unlimited access.
What makes it different? According to Mason, “We’re more like HBO for Independent television than other distribution platforms out there for web series. In fact, ‘distribution platform’ probably does not accurately describe JTS.TV, and we prefer to be characterized as a premium independent tv network… While we do try to look at anything sent our way, we select our shows, screening them for quality and the willingness of the show’s producers to work within the JTS.TV system. We get several submissions weekly from producers who would like their show to be on JTS.TV, and most of them do not meet the high bar we set.”

Prescreen

Founders: Shawn Bercuson, Dan Rummel, Tyler Seymore, John Smart, Wes Donohoe, Lee Wilson
Founded: September 2011
Content it hosts: A limited selection of independent films, which are available for at least 60 days. Titles include From Time to Time, starring Maggie Smith and Dominic West, and the Australian blockbuster Tomorrow, When the War Began.
Can any creator use it? Prescreen is a curated service, but filmmakers can submit their work for consideration.
What the creator gets: 50 percent of the revenue from the film.
What it costs the viewer: Film prices range from $2-$8 (usually $4).
What makes it different? According to Rummel via email, “For the consumer, we pride ourselves on a curated selection of films, some of which are pre-theatrical and/or exclusive. Also we are a highly social platform that provides exclusive access to filmmakers and members of the cast. For the film industry, we collect unprecedented amounts of data that will enable the film industry to rejuvenate and optimize both their marketing and investment strategies.”

VHX for Artists

Founder/CEO: Jamie Wilkinson and Casey Pugh
Founded: March 2012
Content it hosts: Aziz Ansari released his new stand-up special through the service just this week; the program is not yet open to other creators.
Can any creator use it? Limited to a project-by-project basis, though Wilkinson hopes to open it up to all in the future, and welcomes creators to email artists@vhx.tv for more information.
What the creator gets: “We have not finalized costs or revenue sharing specifics, but we like the Kickstarter model: sharing in the profits invests us in our artists, because we share in their success,” Wilkinson said via email.
What it costs the viewer: TBD — Ansari, like Louie CK before him, is charging $5 for his special.
What makes it different? According to Wilkinson, “[Pugh] and I have a long history with Internet video and online communities, and our goal is to help both consumers and creators achieve media nirvana in an increasingly post-TV environment. What differentiates VHX and our technology is a laser-focus on the video and the user experience… Success stories like Kickstarter and Louis CK’s special really demonstrate the latent economic power that exists inside fan communities. It’s clear that if you take a new approach to Internet distribution — ditch old-media-mandated DRM and region-restrictions, and just make it easy for people to buy your awesome videos — that people are not only willing but excited to support artists directly. In the process consumers get a much better experience — fast, restriction-free, easier than torrenting! — and artists make more money and retain more control.” UPDATE: Also, Wilkinson adds, “We actually provide downloadable files! We’ve seen incredible response to that one small fact. People want to own it, put it on their PS3, iPad, Xbox, Kindle Fire… we’ve been really quite amazed.”

Watchbox

Founder/CEO: Jerad Anderson, Matthew Staver, Tienshiao Ma
Founded: January 2012
Content it hosts: Films, short films and web series, including 100 Monkeys – Live in Concert and the web series Whole Day Down, starring Sex and the City‘s Willie Garson.
Can any creator use it? Yes.
What the creator gets: 50 percent of the rental price.
What it costs the viewer: Creators set their own pricing, with a minimum price tag of $1.99.
What makes it different? According to Anderson, “We allow any content owner to upload to the site and set a price for rent. We give content owners total control of their content and provide a dashboard for analytics and transparency.”

Any more we should consider adding? Let us know in the comments!

Picture courtesy of Flickr user edenpictures.

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