Our movie was on Netflix in the USA and Canada for a couple of years (it’s still streaming on Netflix in the UK) but the North American deal ended sometime in November when rights reverted from Magnolia Pictures back to John Gau Productions. The film had already disappeared from iTunes and Amazon, etc., but we hadn’t noticed because, well, Magnolia didn’t bother to mention it and we’re only pretending to be movie producers.
You don’t work directly with these streaming outfits if your body of work is one movie made from a VHS tape found on a shelf in somebody’s garage. You go through an aggregator. Once we finally realized that our film had lost distribution (the money was so little and the delay in payment was so long that it was hard to even tell) we set about finding a new aggregator, which we finally gained in Los Angeles-based Bitmax. Still it then takes months to get the movie back up and streaming even places it was running just fine last year. So don’t expect to see the film again on Amazon or iTunes, for example, until sometime this spring. And it probably won’t make Netflix again until summer.
Our Bitmax deal doesn’t involve sharing revenue. We learned our lesson and are paying the company a fixed fee with them passing-through all royalties. It will be a year or so before we know whether this was a smart move or not but for now it feels right.
The new Netflix deal isn’t through Bitmax because they didn’t then have their own deal with Netflix (now they do, apparently), so we extended our non-exclusive deal with the UK aggregator, Filmbuff, to cover the entire Netflix world. Little did we know that Netflix would shortly be adding 130+ countries to their list!
So the movie is returning, but slowly, and we expect it to be around for many years to come. Viewers love it of course and we’re proud to have made something so long ago that holds up so well.
But while I have you on the line let’s talk a little about Netflix, itself. I first met Netflix chief content guy Ted Sarandos at a winery in the hills above Silicon Valley in 1998. It was at a corporate event for Maxtor, the hard drive company (now part of Seagate) and I was the dinner speaker. Pay me a lot of money and I’ll speak for your company, too.
Sarandos was attending for Netflix and after dinner and my 50 minutes of this-and-that we sat at the tasting bar and he told me the Netflix strategy, which was to become exactly what they are today. This was 18 years ago, back when Netflix made all its money delivering DVDs through the Post Office, remember, and didn’t stream video at all. Yet even then streaming and producing original shows was the plan. I was impressed.
And I remain impressed. I’m not here to make any 2016 predictions about Netflix, but I wouldn’t bet against them. To maintain a corporate strategy with such success for more than 18 years is a wonder in high tech. It shows vision, discipline, and luck — the three components any tech company needs to change the world.