/>
X
Business

Has iTunes opened it doors to 'indie' film producers?

After ten months of negotiations (read: pestering), Apple has agreed to sell downloads of the 'indie' snowboarding film, That, through the company's iTunes video download store. So does this mean that iTunes is ready to embrace the Long Tail, and help small independent filmmakers monetize their content?
Written by Steve O'Hear, Contributor on

After ten months of negotiations (read: pestering), Apple has agreed to sell downloads of the 'indie' snowboarding film, That, through the company's iTunes video download store. This is the first time that Apple has accepted content that doesn't come from an established or major distributor; essentially cutting out the 'middleman', so that a small video producer can sell their content directly through iTunes.

So does this mean that iTunes is ready to embrace the Long Tail, and help small independent filmmakers monetize their content?

Let's look at what we know -- or don't know -- about the deal:

  1. It took 10 months to negotiate.
  2. The film's producers (Forum Snowboards) couldn't set the price, and had to settle for iTunes' TV download pricing ($1.99) not the $9.99 charged for older feature films.
  3. DRM'd versions only.
  4. Is it *exclusive*? or can they also sell downloads through other services?
  5. What's the revenue share? Independent producers can expect to receive anything from 50-70% of revenue generated through other download services.

I'm not convinced that this deal opens the floodgates for independent filmmakers to get their content into the iTunes store. It's looks more like Apple is simply dipping its toe in the water, perhaps to see what it can learn from the deal. My reason for this pessimistic reading is that I've always thought that Apple could pretty much "own" the long tail content market, if it desired. If you look at what happened when Apple added podcasting to the iTunes store -- overnight they became the default podcast directory. Instead I think Steve Jobs is much more focussed on securing major studio content, as he sees that as the key to selling more hardware (iPods and Apple's soon-to-be released Apple TV), and, ultimately, strengthening the company's position as a leader in the entertainment industry.

However, what I think Apple should do, is let anybody submit their paid-for video content to iTunes, without a middleman, just as they do with podcasting. They could do the same for music too -- along the lines of Sean Fanning's Snowcap. They should also give content producers the choice of DRM or no DRM (walking the walk, not just talking), and also allow a little flexibility in price. Indie producers probably have the best understanding of what price the market will sustain for their content.

Editorial standards