IFC Team Seeks Bravos for VOD Movie Package
Byline: JON LAFAYETTE
The Independent Film Channel is a little bit more independent these days.
Since Cablevision Systems’ Rainbow Media sold off its largest network, Bravo, a group of Rainbow’s senior executives have turned their full attention to the smaller IFC.
IFC bills itself as the only end-to-end independent film company and had a great year last year, producing hits like Y Tu Mama Tambien and distributing Monsoon Wedding and the phenomenal My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Now Kathleen Dore, president of IFC Cos., Ed Carroll, general manager of IFC and Gregg Hill, EVP of affiliate sales and marketing, aim to use IFC’s unique assets to make it as big as they made Bravo.
Step one is to increase the value of IFC to cable operators, and that’s being done with a video-on-demand package that will let cable operators sell some films at the same time they’re made available via video stores for the first time.
That may not make Blockbuster too happy, but it should bring a smile to the faces of cable operators looking to sell digital boxes and hook subscribers on VOD.
“We have an interest in helping to support digital cable,” Hill said. At this point, IFC is on systems passing 64.5 million homes. But since it’s mostly on digital tiers, most of the 24 million households that actually get the channel do so via satellite. Both DirecTV and EchoStar carry IFC.
Cable operators might also like the fact that IFC On Demand films won’t be free content, like so much of the programming other networks are providing to prime the pump. Operators will share revenue equally with IFC. Cablevision has already tested the VOD package, Hill said.
Among the films IFC will make available are Y Tu Mama Tambien, Happy Accidents, Business of Strangers, Go Tigers! and Our Song.
A subscription VOD offering with a price in the $4 to $5 per month range is being developed, Hill added.
Of course, IFC believes its network is already plenty valuable to cable operators. “The channel has all the attributes of a premium network at a basic digital price,” said Hill. It attracts a hard-to-reach male 18-to-34 demographic that’s into technology. That makes them prime targets to be upsold cable modems and other advanced products, he added.
Being in the film business creates a halo effect over IFC. The cable channel gains flexibility in scheduling the films it produces and distributes. For example, the channel will have the first broadcast window for Y Tu Mama and Monsoon Wedding. (Broadcast rights for Greek Wedding have not been finalized.)
Also, getting the IFC name on movies being seen by film buffs provides the network with “millions of dollars in impressions,” Hill said.
Next year, IFC will get into another phase of the business after remodeling the Waverly Theater in New York’s Greenwich Village into the IFC Film Center. The center will have editing facilities and will allow directors to screen rough cuts.
The channel plans to increase spending on programming, according to Carroll. One original project demonstrates how many ways IFC can use a piece of content. A Decade Under the Influence, a film co-directed by the late Ted Demme and finished by Richard LaGravenese, looks at how the ’70s were influenced by the films of the era and how the times influenced a new generation of filmmakers.
Under the Influence will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival as a 90-minute movie, then be distributed to theaters by IFC Films in the spring. A three-hour version will air over three nights in August on the cable channel, then be released on VOD. At the same time, footage that hasn’t been used in any other version will be made available on a broadband website.
IFC’s signature show, Dinner for Five, hosted and created by Jon Favreau, begins its second season next month. Among Favreau’s dining companions are Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and David Byrne.
Carroll said the network hopes to have a companion show for Dinner for Five by the end of the year and is planning pilots for several possible series.
IFC also plans coverage of the Independent Spirit Awards and the Cannes Film Festival.
The channel, launched in 1994, broke even in 1998. Carroll said it will remain commercial free rather than risk alienating its audience.
THE NEXT QUESTION:
*How much viewing of IFC’s cable channel will be cannibalized if viewers watch its films on VOD?
*Will larger studios give cable operators an opportunity to offer films to subscribers at the same time as video stores?
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