The free movie streaming service Popcornflix has been downloaded 400,000 times on the Roku, and its viewers streamed 350,000 ad-supported movies via Roku in May alone. “In the movie and TV category, we are right up there with the big players,” Gary Delfiner, senior vice president of Screen Media Ventures, LLC., the parent company of Popcornflix, told me during a phone conversation this morning. So how did the company do it?
Popcornflix isn’t exaxctly Netflix (s NFLX) or Hulu: The service offers a few thousand movie titles for free viewing, and most of it is an eclectic mix of movies you haven’t heard of and movies you’ve long forgotten. In other words: not exactly blockbusters. “We don’t have huge movies, we have good movies,” Delfiner told me. Others may put the site into the so-bad-it’s-good category, but viewers are nonetheless tuning in.
Popcornflix has the rights to these titles because they’re getting distributed by its corporate parent Screen Media Ventures, who has been in this business for 13 years. Initially mostly to cable, but then digital outlets became an inreasing part of the company’s business — and a year and a half ago, the folks at Screen Media asked themselves: Why don’t we do this ourselves? And why don’t we offer everything for free? “Free is a good price,” Delfiner said.
Popcornflix launched a good year ago, and came to the Roku platform about half a year ago. The company’s experience on the platform has been great. “Their viewers turn out,” said Delfiner, who also told me that the company wants to target other Smart TV platforms next. An Android(s GOOG) app is also in the works.
Its corporate parent also allows Popcornflix to distribute their movies pretty much everywhere, including in Canada and the U.K., where Roku launched earlier this year. “We have 400 to 800 movies in every territory,” he explained, adding that the company wants to go to non-English-speaking markets like Germany and Italy next.
So how big of a business is Popcornflix for Screen Media Ventures? It’s still small, but growing fast, Delfiner explained. The revenue generated with the platform is expected to triple this year, and he expects digital to become a significant percentage of the company’s revenue within the next two to three years. But for that to happen, advertisers have to come around, which takes time. “The advertisers are just now learning what this space means to them,” Delfiner said. “They aren’t fully there yet.”