To what extent does digital distribution affect the marketing and consumption of media products?
Throughout the history of film, the way we consume and distribute a media product has changed drastically. Not only do companies have to focus on theatrical exhibition but, they have different online and VOD platforms – non-theatrical exhibition. Companies have to take into account the increase in technological disruption and convergence which can majorly change the way a film is marketed and consumed.
Films which belong to the infamous ‘Big Six’ have a huge advantage over independent films in terms of actually distributing the product and the consumption of the film. For example, the 2015 action film: Furious 7, successfully grossed £1,174,579,500 worldwide due to the amount of money they could spend on marketing and distributing the film. The DVD release was incredibly popular due to the bonus features the DVD had to offer. It was released on the 7th of September in 2015 in the UK and just within its first week it sold roughly 2.5 million units on Blu-ray and DVD. This made Furious 7 the biggest selling franchise of the year (shortly taken by Jurassic World) and by the end of the year, it was the third highest grossing film of the year. Since then, the film has been released on Netflix where it has become incredibly popular. Even though the popularity of the film is a huge advantage for the company, there is the risk of illegal downloading which will have an impact on the consumption of the media product. This turned out to be true as Furious 7 became the second most pirated film of 2015 with 44.7 million downloads. This affected the way people view the film at home but, it also affected the marketing. If people at home could find a way to watch the film for free instead of paying the extortionate prices at the cinema then they would perhaps download it for home viewing.
Wheatley’s 2013 independent drama: A Field in England, had a different distribution method as opposed to a typical film. The film could be described as a form of guerilla film-making and because of the extremely low budget, the film needed to earn profit. Wheatley believed that the best way to do this was a unique multi-media release and there was a huge investment into P+A and marketing. This seems like a perfect way to make profit all at once but, there was some speculation which perhaps affected the marketing scheme. There is still the stigma of the “direct to DVD jibe” regarding the film’s quality and even though this was planned out, there was a problem with the consumption of the media product: brick-and-mortar stores did not carry any new stock until the Monday where the DVDs are delivered. This would have affected the day where all the releases are on different multi-media platforms since the DVDs would not have been available for purchasing. In it’s lifetime, there were 15,000 full presales of the 4DVD film and 20,000 at a reduced price. By October 12th, sales had reached 7,172. Even though the DVD did quite well, there were issues with iTunes and other platforms. Premium pricing was not possible and there was not an exclusive VOD window because, it was released on the same date as the DVD; which is impossible under iTunes policy – this obviously was a downfall in the digital distribution method of the film. The digital masterclass, however, was a huge part of the marketing scheme which led to advantages in the consumption of the film. By mid October, 34% of the visitors followed links to screening and purchasing options for the film which obviously had a huge impact on the consumption of media. It could be argued that Wheatley’s unique method of digitally distributing A Field in England has advantages and disadvantages in terms of how it affected the marketing and the consumption of the media product.
Like A Field in England, Lars Von Trier’s 2013 erotic drama: Nymphomaniac, also had a day-and-date release model funded by the the BFI (British Film Institution) with a total of £50,000. The film’s marketing concentrated on a “unique experience: with a clear distinction from the normal film campaign. Synergy can be seen with the single marketing push from Curzon with £204,028 going into promotion for day-and-date releases. Nymphomaniac had a original ‘One Night Stand’ event which allowed people to watch the two-part film in one sitting at any of the theatres associated with Curzon Cinemas. This form of symbiosis proved to be successful as it was the highest opening gross of any Von Trier film with a total of £143,300. The film also proved to be a success in the home viewing region where a total of 17,184 DVDs were sold in the first two months after it was released as a conventional DVD window on April the 28th. People at home could also view the film on a wide variety of devices as it was available on: CHC (Curzon Home Cinema); SkyStore; FilmFlex; BFI Player and Samsung TV as well as BT TV. 38% of viewers agreed that they would download the film with 18% strongly agreeing to the same statement. Curzon FilmWorld were actually correct with the statement that there would be a strong performance on VOD platforms and this may be because of the marketing scheme (‘One Night Stand’ event) and the availability of actually watching the media product and consuming it.
Another “independent” film which also had a unique way of distributing the film digitally is Ricky Gervais’ 2016 British-Canadian-American comedy: Special Correspondents. In the recent years of Netflix’s popularity, like the “straight-to-DVD jibe” there is also the “straight-to-Netflix jibe” which is what Special Correspondents was a part of. In 2014, it was announced that Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions had purchased the rights to the film for territories including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Latin America. In the following year, it was announced that Netflix had pre-bought the global distribution rights to the film for roughly $12 Million. Since Netflix had bought the rights, the company were keen to show that the film was only available on Netflix and non subscribers had to become a member on the platform. This modern form of digital distribution meant that Netflix had an increase in new subscribers to the streaming service.
It is clear to see that digital distribution affects the marketing and consumption of a film and whatever the film; independent or huge blockbusters – companies have to take in the change in technology and the way we watch a film in the twenty first century.