By Adam Coleman and Cynthia Karena

With DVD sales in steady decline and online audiences growing exponentially, independent content producers need to explore alternative, web-based distribution methods.

That is the view of Gary Hayes, Director – Laboratory for Advanced Media Production at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

“One of the questions Australian filmmakers often say to me is that they’re not prepared to take the risk of placing their content freely on the web and hoping that they will build an audience and that is being advocated at the moment by many people,” he said.

“But if you are a new filmmaker, your first priority is to be known, to actually show that you exist, because that is a real issue.”

One potential model is to first give away low resolution versions of a production on the web to generate and grow an audience.

“You have to be very social, but you can then potentially start to sell higher quality versions.”

Another alternative he says is to employ the services of an aggregation company like New Video and Indie Flicks, who will place a film across 20 or 30 smaller open web systems like iTunes and Hulu.

Hayes says online distribution deals are quite varied, but with iTunes, typically the content producer gets 70 per cent and iTunes 30 per cent.

“For example, if the film cost $15 on iTunes store, $5 is kept by Apple and $10 is passed on to the content producer. This is better than a traditional distribution deal – cinemas, TV, DVD – where you get 5 to 10 per cent if you are lucky.”

Free overseas streaming sites like Hulu stream programs with advertisements and keep 50 per cent of revenues, he says.

But, warns Hayes, “if you are a single producer, it’s harder to deal with iTunes directly, as they prefer to deal with someone who can aggregate content and deal with seven hundred films at a time rather than a handful,” he says.

Aggregation companies that have a direct relationship with iTunes typically take 10 to 15 per cent of the deal, he says.

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