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Karlovy Vary 2024 - KVIFF Eastern Promises

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

Wendy L Bernfeld talks getting your films "off the shelf" at Karlovy Vary


Signing multiple non-exclusive deals with smaller players seeking European content may be the right path to take to exploit arthouse library content, the expert suggested

Wendy L Bernfeld talks getting your films "off the shelf" at Karlovy Vary
l-r: Wendy L Bernfeld and Diana Lodderhose at the talk

On 2 July, the International Industry Insights session organised by the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival hosted a speech by Canada's Wendy L Bernfeld, content licensing agent, attorney and lecturer who works for Dutch consultancy firm Rights Stuff. The talk, titled "Going Beyond the Usual Suspects: Getting your Films ‘’Off the Shelf’’ and Abroad … to Alternative Streamers and New Audiences" was introduced by Deadline editor Diana Lodderhose.

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In her contribution, Bernfeld invited the audience in attendance to look back at their own library of films, including recent and not so recent titles. Today, she argues, there are way more opportunities to make this library profitable, while gaining additional exposure and intercepting new audience segments. Many international digital platforms are perhaps not so well known in Europe, and they're also keen to acquire European content.

She invited the audience to "look beyond their usual buyers" and "the traditional Big5 types," and lay their eyes on other players such as telecom and cable operators, pay TV networks, niche streamers, consumer electronics and other hybrid businesses.

She suggested first to look at the age of a given film and its windows. While new films are obviously still "premium-orientated" and should aim for traditional distribution windows including festival premieres and TVOD, library films who are 3-7 years old or on their second distribution window should look at SVOD as their "sweet spot," whilst titles that are older than eight years should focus on AVOD and FAST players. The concept of non-exclusivity is key; moreover, the aforementioned lines are blurring more flexibly now, Bernfeld added.

Bernfeld identified three types of platforms. The top tier consists of global players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. Tier 2 includes "mainstreamers" which act as competitors for the global players – she mentioned the likes of Canal+ (operating in France, the CEE region, Benelux and in Africa) and Sky (active in Italy, Germany and the UK). Tier 3 hosts complementary players, namely "thematic, niche and micro-niche focused" platforms such as Filmin, MUBI, Curiosity Stream, including some of the booming FAST/AVOD channels like Roku and Pluto.

Most of these players buy, but some also fund content, and all have many competitors who can be involved for additional deals, highlighted Bernfeld, adding that these platforms are hungry for all the content that normally never hits the aformentionned giants. Some may be paying fair flat fees and minimum guarantees, while some others may have revenue sharing models in place.

Moreover, many of the niche/microniche players have very specific focuses – for example, Walter Presents releases only series that are non-UK productions, whilst Insight TV's editorial policy is very much "millennial-orientated."

Finally, she recommended to start from top to bottom (dealing with largest players first and then going lower and lower in the pyramid), doing good research work to understand whether your content aligns (or at least has the potential to) with that specific player's audience, avoiding "MailChimp-like contacts" while customising communication and exploring "umbrella opportunities" offered by producers' associations, institutions and festivals.

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