UK sales and production outfit Independent has launched a digital distribution and marketing arm - Independent Digital.

The new venture will run alongside CEO Luc Roeg's existing business to explore new-media opportunities.

Eric Stevens will lead the unit, which is financed by the Living Capital Group.

The initial aim is to exploit the value of the company's library, which includes titles such as London To Brighton and The Mark Of Cain, through digital releases.

Independent Digital plans to move deeper into digital distribution and marketing, including the acquisition of rights for new films.

Roeg points out that the current choices in the market for even strong products are depressingly limited to the point that films can simply disappear.

By getting in relatively early, Independent chief executive Roeg and Independent Digital head Stevens hope to provide a digital life for quality films that are currently all but invisible.

'The vast majority of festival films never see theatrical distribution. We're saying that in such a cluttered marketplace, there are other means to get out there,' says Roeg.

And they say film-makers are becoming much more interested in digital opportunities. 'Digital does not mean second best, it can be the best way to find audiences.'

They are encouraged by the experiments from HBO in the US, where high-quality content is debuting online.

'We want to break through the stigma that might exist for some, to build an understanding that theatrical exposure is not the only way of finding audiences for film,' says Roeg.

Getting in at a relatively early stage - at least for the international sales business - means the possibility of shaping a future that Roeg says will operate under a 'new rule book'.

But the company hopes its existing business with new-media ventures will prove a long-term strength, allowing films to find the most effective way to reach markets, whether that is in cinemas or online. The new division will work closely with Independent Film Sales, headed by Andrew Orr and Abigail Walsh.

The plans are necessarily open-ended in some areas and the company wants to take a pragmatic approach. At the moment, the company is working with third-party online platforms, making deals with 'the usual suspects' such as iTunes, says Stevens, whose wide-ranging career includes past work with Ingenious Media and UIP.

Given the notoriously uncertain returns for the rights holder from some digital platforms, that may change and Stevens does not rule out the idea of a bespoke platform in the future.

For film-makers, the conventional route to financial returns was clearer. What Independent offers is a revenue-share scheme that cannot be easily quantified.

The new division will be launched with a high-profile film, now in advanced stages of negotiation.