Digital Distribution is the delivery or distribution of media content such as audio, video, software and video games. Over the years with the emergence of Digital technology has opened the gates for digital distribution as we dawn the age of film distribution. The peak for celluloid distribution was 2008 when over 13 billion feet of film were used worldwide. By 2012 that number had dropped to below 4 billion feet and its days are seriously numbered. The 125-year-old era of 35mm celluloid film is over, giving way to a digital future. Digital distribution has made it easier and much more cost effective for companies to transport and deliver their good across to various destinations on a larger scale. Films can now be sent to cinemas and other means of viewing through emails with encryption passwords. This is to protect the file in comparison to how it used to be distributed through massive trucks which would drive to the cinemas and drop of the footage. There are many advantages and disadvantages surrounding digital distribution.
Over the years the distribution of films digitally for filmmakers and their companies has proved to be a major success in generating revenue. Filmmakers now have the assurance that they’re films will be received and viewed on a larger scale. The use of digital distribution has made it possible for viewers to buy and watch films at their convince. Before digital distribution films would be printed out costing distributors substantial amount. For example, to printed an 80-minute feature film would cost around $1,500 to $2,500 which means making enough copies for a wide-release can cost millions of dollars. However, at the maximum 250 megabit per-second data rate, a feature-length movie can be stored on an off-the-shelf 300GB hard drive for $50 and a broad release of 4000 ‘digital prints’ might cost $200,000. The use of hard drives means it can be returned back to distributors for reuse. This means several hundred movies distributed every year, the industry saves billions of dollars.
The use of Netflix, Now TV and other source of on demand applications means films and TV shows can be viewed by viewers whenever they want and wherever they want. This is surely a massive boast for both the film companies and the audiences. Digital distribution has not only helped with the distribution of films, but has also helped raise awareness and promotion of upcoming films. In the past films could only be advertised through posters, however now trailers are now on YouTube and various online sites. Digital distribution has also helped and benefited independent filmmakers as they are able to release short films online or enter competitions such as film festivals to gain awareness for their films. Distribution platforms such as Indee makes it easier for independent filmmakers to distribute and market their films at low cost. By paying a monthly fee, filmmakers are able to upload their films in HD quality. One of the advantages of using Indee is their option of ‘Track’ whereby your alerted when a screener has viewed your film giving you a chance to sell it on for a larger release.
Looking back at the annual reports of two massive film companies Walt Disney and Warner’s Brother Studio, it’s clear digital distribution has had a profound impact in generating revenue. For example, year ended of 27th September 2014 Walt Disney had a 30% increase in theatrical distribution compared to previous year of 2013 going from 1,870 million to 2,431 million. Home entertainment such as DVD’s and on demand also had an increase of 20% going from 1,750 to 2,094 million. The increase in theatrical distribution revenue was due to the performance of Frozen. Frozen sold 11,034,558 DVD copies in the United States generating $185,483,063. Warner’s Brother Studio at December 31, 2014, Home Box Office had approximately 138 million worldwide subscribers, which consisted of approximately 46 million domestic premium pay subscribers and approximately 92 million international premium pay. 2014 saw Warner Bros. grossing $4.73 billion in global box office ($1.56 billion domestic, $3.17 international), making the sixth time the studio has crossed the $4 billion in worldwide box office.
When looking at the advantages of digital distribution it’s easy to forget that there are some disadvantages as well which cost the film industry substantial amount every year. The use of the internet has to be regarded as a positive and a negative, audience members now have easy access to streaming films online due to illegal downloads. Websites such as 123movies.to and putlocker have various HD quality films available to audience members. This in turn has depleted the amount of people going to cinema’s and buying DVD’s. Research by Ipsos suggests that almost 30% of the UK population is active in some form of piracy, either through streaming content online or buying counterfeit DVDs. These theft costs the UK audio-visual industries about £500m a year. Piracy doesn’t look like an issue as audience members because we feel companies generate too much revenue, however, we fail to notice that it affects upcoming small projects.
It’s clear that digital distribution has affected the film industry and its audience members positively generating a substantial amount in revenue globally. Films are released worldwide and any language of your choosing, easier to access and much more importantly they’re cheaper and easier to distribute. However, piracy is an issue that must be addressed.
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