The CEO of digital distributor GoDigital talks to Screen about striking deals with film-makers to make the fast-evolving online space pay.
While Hollywood is taking its time to assess the viability of digital distribution ― surprise surprise ― the independent community has spawned several active players dedicated to the space. One such company is the Santa Monica-based GoDigital, which in the four years since its launch has funnelled more than 400 films through an output pact with Lionsgate Home Entertainment and direct deals with the likes of iTunes, Netflix and Xbox.
Logan Mulvey co-founded the digital and VoD distributor with Jason Peterson and Dave Lindsay in 2008. Initially the former music-video producer served as chief marketing officer and created campaigns for films and platinum-selling artists such as Master P and Lil’ Romeo. The company no longer distributes music and Mulvey became CEO after Peterson and Lindsay moved on to run other businesses.
At time of writing Preferred Ventures, the company launched by FreeCreditReport.com founder and former Experian Interactive CEO Ed Ojdana and former Facebook chief privacy officer and founder of Kelly Investments Chris Kelly, acquired a majority stake in GoDigital. Mulvey says the cash infusion will be used for strategic growth with a focus on audience growth and community building.
The charismatic young executive has worked hard to establish his customer network, bringing prestige titles such as the Millennium trilogy, Lu Chuan’s City Of Life And Death and Benjamin Heisenberg’s The Robber into the pipeline and striking strategic alliances. In January GoDigital snapped up rival Might Entertainment, a move that expanded the combined entity’s library to more than 1,000 titles and gave it access to Might’s VoD output deal with Lionsgate.
Jason Beck, the experienced former VP of acquisitions at Image Entertainment and First Look Studios who co-founded Might, is chief content officer. Mulvey says that since digital distribution is not yet at the level of acceptance it will eventually reach, his colleague must track films with calculated aggression. Having an iTunes deal means GoDigital must provide volume year-round.
At festivals, the team might start negotiations and expect to close weeks after the theatrical buyer frenzy has died down. “A lot of the deals we do are no-advance or low advance,” Mulvey says. “We will tell the film-maker that [even] if they can get an $80,000 advance from another company, we feel that if we do a no-advance deal and [charge] a low fee it will be a better deal for them in the long run. They’ll get money as soon as we get money. Our pitch is if they believe in the film and want to be entrepreneurial, it can be a win-win for both of us.”
Once GoDigital has secured rights ― whether North American, worldwide or any combination in between ― it reaches out to various VoD and digital platforms. GoDigital sets the price point that the end user will pay to view the film and decides whether a platform such as iTunes can offer a title for rental, download-to-own or both.
Mulvey’s team orchestrates a social-media promotional campaign and GoDigital vp of distribution and merchandising Mike Rubsamen oversees sales, platform merchandising and financial analysis of titles across the respective platforms. He is the man who talks to, say, iTunes to ensure a release gets as much exposure as possible on the platform’s carousel. Rubsamen designed the GoDigital Distribution Dashboard, which allows film-makers to check a film’s performance in real time.
“A lot of times we’ll work with whomever is doing theatrical and co-ordinate on the marketing and PR side, especially when we’re doing a day-and-date release,” Mulvey says. “Our fee usually is between 25%-35% of whatever comes back from sales. So if there’s one dollar, iTunes will get their fee, we take our fee and the rest goes to the film-maker.” Mulvey cannot discuss the iTunes splits. However sources in the digital distribution community say it could be as high as 30 cents on every dollar in revenue.
The word is that while cable VoD still accounts for roughly 60% of overall digital revenues, other digital platforms are growing. Forecasting success is a treacherous game, but Mulvey says it is very possible to return mid-five figures to a film-maker and six figures in certain cases. Strong recent performers for GoDigital include documentaries Unraveled, about white-collar crime; The Big Fix, about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; and Loose Change 9/11, about the September 11 attacks.
Acceptance of digital delivery will take time, but it is a bet Mulvey and his peers at SnagFilms, Gravitas Ventures and FilmBuff are willing to make. “We have seen massive growth over the last six months just on the broadband iTunes side and sales have doubled, as more people are comfortable with iTunes and have more devices at home,” he says. “We continue to get better movies and get better at marketing them.”
- Launched in 2008.
- Has released more than 400 titles.
- Acquired Might Entertainment in January to create a combined library of more than 1,000 films.
- Has deals with Lionsgate Home Entertainment, iTunes, Netflix, Xbox, Playstation, Hulu, Vudu, Dish, inDemand and TVN.
- Upcoming titles include HBO doc The Education Of Dee Dee Ricks and horror comedy Dead & Breakfast.