This week, the VHX website got a whole new look — instead of bringing users directly to its social video community, the home page now lays out VHX’s digital distribution services, first seen bringing Aziz Ansari and Indie Game: The Movie directly to consumers. This is no ordinary site redesign: This is VHX, distributor and disrupter, now open for business.
VHX is now taking submissions from anyone looking for premium independent distribution for their content, distribution over which they have full control: VHX releases are DRM-free and optimized across all platforms, including mobile, tablet and game consoles.
At this stage, the submission process boils down to “email VHX,” as the VHX team is focused on making sure that each release lives up to a certain level of quality. “We put the ‘Contact Us’ button front and center because it’s really about getting in touch with us,” co-founder Jamie Wilkinson said via phone. “Long-term, [VHX is] about the democratization of the video distribution process, but for right now we’re trying to make sure it’s high-quality content we’re putting out — working with selected filmmakers so we can give them the white glove treatment they need.”
If your content passes muster, partnering with VHX for distribution means being able to sell your content directly from your own site, with the VHX team providing direct assistance with SEO optimization, design, marketing and more.
While the profit split VHX takes with its clients is not yet public, Wilkinson did say that it’s a smaller cut than iTunes (s AAPL) takes. “Plus, we’re very transparent about how much of that is what we make versus our expenses,” he added. “Whatever a traditional distributor does, we want to do exactly the opposite.”
This includes encouraging clients to use multiple distribution platforms, not just VHX. “The internet has completely changed expectations — it’s a customer service economy now,” Wilkinson said. “Everything has to be available everywhere.”
Wilkinson estimated the number of people who have reached out since VHX for Artists was first announced in the low hundreds. “The big challenge for us over the next 12 months is spreading awareness that we’re here. Because when people find out about us, they immediately get it,” he said.
VHX has partnered with Paypal and Amazon to handle the payment processes, a process that Wilkinson said was a bit difficult the first time, because of the amount of revenue they were taking in. Prior to the Aziz Ansari special launch, worried that as a new company getting a sudden influx of orders, Amazon might shut them down for suspicious behavior, they called Amazon to let them know in advance that they weren’t “Russian money launderers.”
Now, however, they now have a relationship with Amazon, as well as other vendors. “We only need to solve these problems once — then it works for all of our clients,” Wilkinson said.
Clients also receive live analytics on how their content is performing, including audience demographics — and because customers use their email addresses to set up an account, this means the creator has an opportunity to contact them down the line.
According to Wilkinson, 50 percent of the people who purchased Aziz Ansari – Dangerously Delicious opted into the Aziz Ansari newsletter — which meant Ansari had “tens of thousands, almost hundreds of thousands” of new subscribers (Wilkinson’s estimation) to whom he could then promote future projects.
The VHX team has grown to eight people, and they’re also looking for more (including a hand model, though expect competition for that one to be tough). Projects include working on the recently-launched Star Wars Uncut sequel and continuing to maintain the community side of VHX.
For, while there is some pressure for the company to phase out the site’s video discovery component and focus entirely on distribution, Wilkinson said that there might be a way to combine both elements — especially as the community side might be able to serve as discovery for VHX’s paid content. “We fully intend to bring it all together,” he said.
Wilkinson said that between now and November, a half-dozen more projects from a variety of genres are set to roll out. “It’s all over the place — feature films, documentaries — things that you can’t super-put into buckets.”
Looking forward, VHX may also experiment with serialized or subscription content — by focusing on individual projects, the company is able to stay flexible how it approaches distribution. “So many of the other solutions out there have this cookie cutter approach, but we want to make sure that we give each release a unique strategy,” Wilkinson said. “We can adapt on the fly — if something doesn’t work, we can fix it.”