Content Republic sounds like a new nation state, but in fact it is a new state of mind about digital distribution.
Teun Hilte, who co-founded the company with Michel Peters, explains the concept: "We're licensing films to internet platforms," he says. "For companies like iTunes which have the ambition to work on a pan-European level in film like they do in music, they need rights across Europe. It's physically and logistically impossible for them to deal with 10 to 15 local indie distributors working on any given film. We offer a full-service consolidation.
"Our approach is three-pronged - licensing (consolidation of rights), distribution (actual digital delivery) and online marketing," Hilte continues. Peters adds: "You can't keep sending DigiBetas around. Companies are asking themselves, 'How can we be future-proof'' A lot of companies don't know where to start."
The studios have the resources and know-how to work directly with the big portals, but smaller, independent producers and distributors do not have the manpower or technical expertise to deliver films digitally to the likes of iTunes, Netflix, LoveFilm or other online VoD platforms. Peters says: "The majors have the resources to devote someone to digital delivery of their library but an indie can't generally afford to have a person dedicated to it."
Content Republic is based in London but has an international reach (both Hilte and Peters are Dutch-born). Since spreading the word in Cannes, the firm has seen an increased awareness of what it can offer. "It's clear people are becoming more and more aware of the need for a digital strategy," Hilte says.
Current content partners include MFA+ Licensing in Germany, Benelux's Cineart and Maiden Voyage Pictures, Breakthru and Diffusion Films among others in the UK. Content Republic plans to work only business-to-business, not to build a consumer portal itself.
Hilte clarifies that sales companies and distributors should see Content Republic as an extension to what they already do. "We're not competing to buy the same rights - we merely act as a facilitator, a partner they can outsource their digital distribution to."
The company's main focus is features and they will work mostly with films already picked up for some form of traditional distribution. "We aim to have at least 100 strong titles covered for the whole of Europe by the end of 2008," says Hilte, whose Clockwork Pictures was a producer of Paul Verhoeven's Black Book.
"We want Content Republic to stand for quality independent film from a wealth of genres and directors, including niche or arthouse titles, the more the better," Hilte says.
Peters has learned much from the digital revolution in the music business. As VP of European digital operations at Sony Music International, he was working with 185 partners across 22 territories. Content Republic's tech guru Steve Whilton is also a Sony BMG digital veteran.
"There's going to be a digital future so companies need to make their catalogues ready for that," Peters says. "That's what we did with music. There's a wealth of cinematic content out there, which just needs pushing out for a different way of consuming."