Amazon Video Direct Lowers Prime Streaming Royalty

I’ve pretty much told everyone who will listen that if you’re a filmmaker doing short films, AVD, not Youtube, is the place to be. Especially since the new YPP policy at Youtube is about to take effect. I have made way, way more off a few short films on Amazon Video than I ever did off of Youtube.

Apparently Amazon woke up to how sweet the deal was, and has just announced that they are drastically reducing the royalty rate for videos watched through Amazon Prime streaming.

Previously videos watched with Prime got $0.15 per hour of video watched (In the US). Titles submitted through AVD had a maximum cap royalty of $75,000 per year per title.

Some people were upset about that cap. But to reach it your video had to be streamed for 500,000 hours. If you’ve got content that popular, it might be time to work with a distributor that can bypass the Amazon Video Direct system and go directly with Amazon.

The new royalty rates eliminate that cap. Which is good, I guess. And the new rates are for all territories. Not just the US. The new rate is what AVD paid for other territories outside the US. And while the rate drops a lot, you can earn higher rates if your videos are watched a lot.

The new rates are tiered based on hours of viewing PER TITLE. Up to 99,999 hours you get $0.06 per hour. That’s right, the rate drops by almost 2/3 in the US. This will put me right about the Youtube payment range. Most short films will never hit this amount of viewing time.

If you have 100,000 hours of viewing, the rate increases to $0.10 per hour. Over 500,000 hours and you’re back to $0.15 per hour. But cross 1,000,000 hours and you drop back to $0.06 again.

In order to reach the $0.15 per hour rate again, you have to have 500,000 hours of viewing. So the cap is gone, but it takes longer to hit $75,000.

($75,000 in royalties? Who are we kidding? How many indie filmmakers hit 500,000 hours of viewing on Amazon?)

A 5 minute long short film would need to be watched in its entirety 1,200,000 times in a year before that title could make $0.10 per viewing hour, which is still 1/3 less than the original royally. A 2 hour movie would need to be watched 50,000 times to hit that same royalty rate.

So, why? Why is Amazon doing this? Here’s what they say:

“The tiered structure allows us to align the Prime Subscription Access rate with the level of customer engagement generated by each individual title or season (more engaging titles earn a higher royalty rate). By doing so, we offer a few advantages for providers, including elimination of the title-level annual earnings cap and expanded earnings potential in territories outside the U.S.”

I get it. I’ve seen some bad videos on Amazon Prime. And even though I have short films on Amazon, I know most people don’t sit down at the TV and look for short films. So Amazon is making it less lucrative for creators who pump out bad or short content, and focusing on content that keeps viewers engaged for longer; because it’s good enough that people watch more of it and because it’s literally longer.

But, man it stinks for short film creators. Up to this point AVD was a good way to make a little extra cash for your efforts. Not major money, but better than the alternatives. Now that Youtube has put the clamp on casual creators, AVD is still the best outlet for short content. But the paycheck is about to get a lot smaller than it already was.

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Getting Paid via Amazon Video Direct

IMG_7243I got my first very small payment from Amazon Video Direct. It’s small because of my content, not because of anything Amazon did. I see people complain about the $75k limit Amazon imposes on their payments. I would love to have the problem of hitting that limit. If you have a film that is generating that much revenue, you don’t need to be on Amazon Video Direct, you need a different (larger) distribution option. But for most of us, this is just fine.

But I got paid. And I got paid more than I did on Youtube. On Amazon I have a total of 13 videos, all dramatic content. No DIY or how to videos. I have over 100 videos on 2 accounts over at Youtube. Those 13 videos in the month of June earned more than the 100 on Youtube. The next month was even better, so I will see a “larger” small payment. The July payment will be larger than any month ever in Youtube payments. Part of that is because this content is new to a new audience.

The evidence from these past few months is that the Amazon outlet has the potential to bring in more even than Youtube, in general. If you can generate short content on a consistent basis, you could see a steady stream of small payments. The video that has been watched more than any other in my library is a 2 minute comedy short. I have no idea how people are finding it. I have promoted the others to my network more than this one. But it is, organically, doing better.

It’s a bit of a hassle to jump through the hoops to get content on AVD, but it looks to be a real outlet to get your content in front of another audience, and to get paid something for it.

Amazon Intant Video, CreateSpace, Aggregators and Episodic Content

{Update: You should now look into Amazon Video Direct. Fixes a lot of issues with Amazon instant Video.}

handy videoI’ve been looking for ways to get the episodes of Peculiar onto streaming sites. There are a few aggregators out there, but many require you to fork over several hundred dollars in order to have the content submitted. Then there is a chance it won’t be accepted.

One place that will take anything you submit is Amazon. If you send it, they take it. And Createspace offers a simple way to get your content online.

But it’s not perfect. The workflow of the Createspace submission is: Create a project, burn a DVD (!) and mail it to them. They rip it. They place it online and share the sales with you. Sorry, no Amazon Prime access for your content. That’s right, you must make a standard definition DVD of your video project and they will rip their file from that compressed mpeg2 file. There is no way to upload your content, and no way to sell HD content through Createspace.

But it is free and fairly simple.

If I had a movie I would probably have already just sent it in. But I have 10 episodes of a show.

When I asked about sending episodic content in, I was told they no longer allow that.

That seemed odd, since there are tons of TV shows grouped together as seasons on Amazon Instant Video. And from that phasing, Createspace used to allow indie producers to group their content together as well. So I asked why.

In true major company help desk fashion I had to ask three times. Every time I asked why they don’t allow indie producers to group episodes, I was told what they allowed. They said, that’s right, we don’t allow it. On the fourth try I finally got an answer.

It seems that some users ruined it for the rest of us. A few people were uploading movies broken into multiple parts, and asking customers to buy multiple installments. Customers complained. The hammer dropped. I personally think it’s a bit of overkill for what had to be a small problem, but it’s their company.

I was preparing to submit each semester of the show (6 episodes for the 1st, 4 episodes for the 2nd) as a separate movie, when I ran across a new aggregator. This one is called Kinonation. I’m still researching them, and waiting to hear back if they allow episodic content, but on the surface it seems like a good thing. no upfront fees, just a split on the backside. For a project that may not see huge sales to recoup lots of submission fees, this seems like a good deal. Oh, and the submissions are eligible for Amazon Prime.

So, I’m waiting to hear back, and ready to move toward online distribution of the show.

Peculiar Fundraising Update

cover supportWe have been in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign over at IndieGoGo for new episodes of my show, Peculiar.

We have 19 days left. We are 22% toward our goal. We passed the 2nd donation level… which means we released a 2nd Reveal Video. When we hit certain levels of donations, we reveal a little more about the new episodes. This one exposes a few of the themes for upcoming shows:

And in case you missed it, here is the first level Reveal Video:

So now you are up to date on the campaign! Next Reveal Video will be out when we hit $2000.

We need your help to make this happen. You can do something “Peculiar” and support Independent Christian TV! Even if you decide not to give any cash, you can use the tools on the page, right under the video, to share the campaign with your friends.

Shooting the Pilot This Week

It’s finally here! This week we are shooting most of the pilot for the TV series I am developing.

It has been great. It has been hard. We have two more days of major shooting this weekend. Using volunteer actors is very interesting. I had two parts commit and drop out and get replaced within a matter of days. I’m just praying no one else drops before the weekend. I don’t blame them, they are doing me a favor being in the show. If something important comes up, i would probably drop out, too.

Budget wise i took stock of what we have spent this morning. Amazingly, we are on track to spend less than $200 for the whole show! I want to say that again, production cost of a full length TV show will be less than $200. I can’t believe how blessed I am. I’m borrowing everything. Have not paid a dime for locations or gear or people. Just had to buy a few props and a little food. I’d love to give everyone a T Shirt, but it would cost more than $200 to have them made. (I know, I checked)

What’s next?

Edit, edit, edit.

Then promote, promote, promote.

I may do a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for advertising. If I can get enough people to watch the show, I can get real backers/sponsors. I don’t think I can keep costs this low as episodes progress. Later ones have more roles, and need more extras and more elaborate sets. If I can show potential sponsors that their money would be well spent investing in this series… This could work. Or maybe someone could throw a lot of money at it because they believe in the project. if i was independently wealthy this would be an issue.

But that is the next thing. The current thing is to shoot the pilot. I am working with some wonderful people. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but to have people buy into your vision, and come alongside you to do something this big… I am overwhelmed.

Will the NRB Survive?

A few days ago I attended the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. (Before I continue, let me repeat what I have said before: the public policy work that the NRB does is invaluable to Christian communicators and supporters of free speech in America. That alone is worth the membership fees.) This year’s convention was very different for me. As the serving Chair of the Church Media Committee, I was an ex-officio board member, and had to go to several extra meetings I normally did not attend. One of those was the board meeting, where I sat in a room with some of the pioneers of Christian broadcasting. As I looked around the room a couple of thoughts ran through my head. As I realized I was the youngest person in the room I wondered, “Who are the next generation of leaders in Christian communication? And why aren’t any of them here?”

Now, these people are smart and driven. And they have truly done and continue to do, eternally significant work. But the NRB, like many organizations of it’s age, is a bit of a good old boys club. And for several years it has been declining. There are several reasons for that, but the outcome is the same. The NRB is dying just like Christian TV. Two years ago I actually went to my Church Media Committee meeting to resign, and not look back.

But in that meeting I learned that the NRB was making some pretty major changes to the convention program. So, not only did I stay on, but I ended up serving as the chair of the committee. And we spent the first part of the year talking about what we would like to see changed. And were pleased to see many of our ideas were heard.

I’d love to say that every change worked, but not everything did. I’m sure we will be tweaking. I handed off the chairmanship of the committee, but will still be working on it. I hope things improve.

My fear is that the perception of NRB will continue to be that it is an association for older broadcasters who like to dress in three suits. There are a few people that dress down, or wear jeans with their sport jackets and such. I was proud to wear my name badge with the extra flags on the bottom, especially the Board of Directors one, with jeans and an untucked shirt. Not just because I had a bit of rebellion in my heart about the general dress of attendees, but because I wanted younger people to see that there are a few people on the board that are not from the same mold. The same mold is what we need to keep changing.

I have written before about the future of religious broadcasting. I strongly believe that it must change or it will die off. I believe that the NRB can and will continue to shift toward the future and continue to be an association worthy of membership. It’s a lot like turning a large ship with a small rudder. I just hope we can get on the right course before we sink.

Streaming the Game

This year for the first time ever the Superbowl was officially streamed by the network broadcasting it. You could watch the stream from any computer, iPad, or Verizon iPhone. The stream showcased multiple camera angles and it’s own set of advertisements.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but it sort of is.

A major sporting event was available online, complete with ad revenue and bonus content at the same time as the live broadcast of the event. I’m interested to know how many people streamed it, and how it was received. If this was successful, we will continue to see broader streaming offerings from the networks. It’s easy to start with a game the this, since the audience is so large. You could do the same thing with the Oscars. This was just one broadcast, but more will follow.

Why Did Netflix Apologize Now?

Yesterday, I started my day off with breakfast and an apology. A few months after Netflix stirred up quite a bit of unhappiness, they finally got around to saying sorry, and trying to explain why they are raising the prices on their loyal customers.

Here’s the apology/explanation part:

“So here is what we are doing and why.

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service. [Editorial- Read:”We can’t get permission to stream our entire DVD catalog.”]

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”

OK, was that so hard? I still don’t like the increase, but we will keep our plans, for now.

But why did my new best friend Reed send this out now?

Well ever since the news that Netflix had lost about a million DVD subscribers, stocks haven’t been doing so well. It seems a million customers decided they really didn’t need DVDs by mail after all. And Netflix sent out a report showing a larger than expected drop. You see, long term this is what Netflix wants. They want out of the mailing business. Here is a chart from back in 2010:

They expect(ed) DVD mailing to peak within a couple of years. And then decline over the next decade or so.

Once they split the DVD and streaming businesses under the Netflix name, and saw a million people opt out of DVD by mail, investors saw their stock drop 14% or so. Uh-oh. Netflix means to phase DVD mailing out anyway, but the more this part of their business declines (which is what they want) the less solid their stocks are (which they don’t want). Netflix has a problem.

Up in the sky! It’s a bird! No, a plane! No, it’s a poorly named spin off here to save the good name of Netflix. Qwikster is here!

The second half of the apology letter announced that Netflix was distancing themselves even more from DVDs by mail. That’s what really makes a good apology, back end it with even more bad news for your customers. Now, if they want to keep DVD streaming, they need to log into a totally different website. Integration is so last decade.

Oddly, even after this new Quikster launch, stocks did even worse.

But does Netflix care? A few weeks from now people who do DVDs by mail will be getting them with the new Quikster logo. Netflix will continue to work on deals to stream more content. And people will adjust. Then next quarter when Qwikster shows another decline in subscribers, Netflix stock will not be affected. Because Netflix will be a video streaming site, and it’s perception will be that they don’t have anything to do with mailing DVDs.

I think that is why we got this email apology now. It would have made more sense for Mr. Hastings to have sent this months ago, but they used an apology to soften the extra bit of hassle DVD subscribers were going to have to endure.

“Hey, we are so sorry that we raised our prices by 60% and then ignored all the protest about it, but here’s another minor inconvenience for you. Maybe you won’t notice that we just fire walled ourselves off from the continued decline of DVD by mail subscriptions.”

It’s the last part of the quote above that’s telling:

“So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”

They could just as well have said, “We realize that streaming is the future even if our investors don’t, so we have split the two businesses. Now we can let the DVD side die off without impacting our stock prices.” Remember the graph, back in 2010 they were projecting the death, not growth, of DVD mailing.

Long term this is probably a very smart move for Netflix. Sure, I won’t like going to Qwikster’s site to handle my DVD queue. But in a few years, I won’t need DVDs by mail, I’ll be streaming all my content.

WWDC Keynote: What Would I Like?

[Check out my Post WWDC Keynote report.]

On Monday Steve Jobs is scheduled to deliver a keynote during the WWDC, 10 AM PST. (That’s 1:00 Pm EST for us East Coast people.) Apple has indicated that this address will be completely about software. It will be concerning Lion, iOS 5, and the new iCloud service. If I had my way, what would we hear on Monday?

Lion:
Last year Apple lifted the lid on its latest OS, Lion. They showed off a lot of features that had been influenced by the touch interface they pioneered with iOS devices. There are rumors that this will be a very inexpensive upgrade, and may be available through the Mac App Store. I am pretty stoked about the touch integration. I have my track pad ready to go. I just need to not to be so different that it breaks all my production applications.

I think this will be available, in whatever form and price, the same day of the event.

iOS 5:
Apple needs to make a few improvements here. iOS is still a great operating system, but competitors have been gaining.

Supposedly Apple is completely reworking the widgets and notifications system. That is one of the major gripes people I know have about the iPhone. Android users can do all sorts of custom interfaces, but Apple has us in a very tight box. I’m used to that box, but wouldn’t mind a bit of room. I would love the ability to change up the lock screen. A few more options on how notifications work would be great, as well.

I have been hearing rumors about wireless syncing. Someone said it would only be through an Apple Time Capsule, but I cannot imagine Apple making that mistake. Forcing iOS users to buy another device just to get wireless syncing would be a mistake. I’d like to be able to sync my devices to my computer over a wifi network. (Or through a cloud based service?)

Having just gone through this, I’d like for them to address the way you move iOS devices from one machine to another. I just upgraded my laptop, and after syncing my devices and reloading them, all of my folders were gone. I still have not gotten everything back to normal.

We will be waiting a couple of months for this to drop.

iCloud:
This is the big one. I expect this won’t be ready to roll out for a couple of months but it won’t be too long because Apple really has had some pressure put on them by Amazon and Google. Neither of those cloud based streaming services are perfect, but they both offer some nice features. Apple will have to match those, and beat them, quickly.

Unlike Amazon and Google, Apple seems to have landed most (or all) of the major record labels. This should pave the way for Apple to bypass the individual locker file system, so they can store one copy of most songs on a few servers, where we who have purchased the song can stream it. Of course, this would only work with songs we have bought from iTunes. Anything else, from music to pictures to video, would be uploaded and stored by each customer.

I have been hearing a price of $20-25 annually, which is in line with the Amazon price structure. I expect songs bought through iTunes would be available for streaming without hitting whatever storage level you have. This should completely replace Mobile Me. There will be some levels of service that are free (like “Find my Phone”) and that may include a small amount of storage. Probably similar to Amazon’s 5GB level.

At the very least it must be able to do what Amazon and Google can. I am a little excited about the possibility of an integrated iOS Cloud solution. I dropped to a 16GB model iPhone this last upgrade because I have a 64GB iPad. But with my apps and content, I sometimes find storing all my music on the phone difficult. But the interface with the Amazon cloud leaves a lot to be desired. I would love a seamless experience of listening to my music on the phone, whether from files stored locally or stored in the cloud.

And, I would love to be able to stream video from the cloud to my Apple TV. Did I mention I have hundreds of GBs of videos? That ability would push me to buy a much larger storage plan. But, like many Apple services, I doubt this will be available day one.

Speaking of Apple TV:
It’s time to move this device to an app based system. I would love to see a totally new operating system. One that borrows from Roku and boxee’s channel model. One where I can add or delete all sorts of online media content. With Airplay and iCloud as its centerpiece, users could set up Netflix, Hulu Plus, and any number of other channels. I don’t expect Apple to open it up to the extent that Roku has with private channels, but this is definitely a direction I’d like to see.

One More Thing:
Of course there will be one more thing. And I think it will be the long awaited iPhone 5 announcement. (Or will it be the iPhone 4S?) Announced Monday with a fall release date. Delayed by the entrance of Verizon this year, it’s time for the annual upgrade to the iPhone line up. It will be a sort of slide-grade. I think the new model will be 64GB max, with the same processor the iPad 2 uses. I expect an 8 megapixel camera, but probably still 720p video resolution. I don’t think we will see a huge change. Some have suggested a larger display, but that won’t be until the next model. Oh, and the antenna thing will be fixed.

Unless, the old rumors of a smaller iPhone are true. Imagine an iPhone Nano, without much local storage, but tied to your iCloud account? Probably not, but iCloud does open some doors.

Amazon Cloud Player Works With iOS Devices

A few days ago several reports surfaced that Amazon had quietly upgraded the functionality of its cloud player, and now all iOS devices could use it.

I have been playing with it for a while. It streams about the same over 3G as it does over wifi, for me. There is a small lag time between tracks, but nothing you can’t handle. As the article linked above says, the controls are not designed for a small screen, so iPod/iPhone users will be scrolling a bit. You can see and use your playlists, at least the ones on top of you list of playlists (since I cannot get mine to scroll down).

This isn’t anywhere as nice as an app, or even a web app, would be. But it’s a start. As a result, i took most of my music off my 16GB phone to make room for apps and video. If need to hear a certain song that isn’t loaded, I can just use the cloud player. How long will it be before there is a reall app for this? I’ll bet people are working on it right now.