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Archive for the ‘Alternative Content’ Category

postheadericon Alternative Content in Cinemas: A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel?

Recently we’ve been building on our work in “alternative content” to develop a newsletter-cum-release schedule, which we’ve called Cinema Events. You may have noticed the ad to the right of your screen. It’s got off to a good start, though like local newspapers, the people who like it most seem to be those that are in it – in this case distributors of opera, ballet, concerts and sports to cinemas. We predict an upsurge in the quantity of events available as these distributors become more aware of each other’s content and start to licence more of it.

Equally interesting, it seems alternative content does not always subscribe to the model which saw multiplex cinemas sweep through the international market, in which, basically, all films played all theatres.

In some territories at least exhibitors aim for exclusive access to some streams of content. In France Pathé Live and Côté Diffusion appear to serve their parent theatre circuits with separate streams of product. Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé and CGR do not show content from the other’s alternative content arm. In the United States NCM Fathom has formal exclusivity arrangements in place with both distributors of alternative content and with exhibitors. Thus BY Experience, distributor for the Metropolitan Opera, only distributes through NCM Fathom in the United States; only members of NCM’s network can book Fathom events – and they cannot book anyone else’s.

Everybody loves to offer exclusive products. But we wonder if there isn’t a danger that this approach could result in much alternative content being sidelined as essentially a promotional tool, rather than develop into a market in its own right. One of the reasons we started Cinema Events is because so many of these events are still under nearly everyone’s radar. Without big promotional budgets like the movie industry, it is sometimes hard even for cinema professionals to know what is going on. Imagine being a consumer.

postheadericon Alternative Content: Four Facts and an Advertisement

Earlier this year we agreed with the alternative content consultant  Melissa Keeping to work together on a report, Alternative Content, about the emerging business of showing opera, sport and other non-film material in cinemas. Melissa did numerous interviews, in person and on the telephone, with industry participants, while we trawled through financial reports and a variety of other sources. As everyone who reads the trade press (including the numerous blogs devoted to aspects of digital cinema) knows, there is a lot of activity in this area.

What was surprising is how small this market still is. In 2010 North American revenues were $88 million; in the UK, regarded as the second-largest market, they were $12 million. In both cases these revenues represent between 0.8% and 0.9% of box office. Another sign that this is a budding rather than fully-flowering market is the dominance of two big players. A single content provider, The Metropolitan Opera of New York,  accounted for between 30% and 40% of alternative content box office worldwide between 2008 and 2010, while the biggest distributor, NCM Fathom captured the equivalent of 30% of worldwide box office in 2010 despite its operations being confined to North America.

Something else I wondered about was where the widely quoted view that  alternative content could reach 5% of box office had come from. Then I remembered being on a panel at a Screen International conference (around 2006 I think because Christine Costello was there and she had just started More2Screen), and a questioner asking exactly that question: what share of box office might alternative content reach?

And I think that after a moment’s thought I answered 5% in that rabbit-in-the-headlights moment, but these type of events tend to blur into one another so I may be mistaken. In any case a 5% ceiling still seems to me about right. Think of it like this: to reach 5% of box office, an alternative content event is going to have to make it into the top 20 of the year’s box office, another into the top 40 and so on.

That’s all a long way off. In the immediate future growth will come from the spread of satellite dishes on cinema roofs; after that there are a host of insights generated from experience so far, in this surprisingly complicated market, waiting to be implemented. They will drive further growth. Everything is still to play for in what turned out to be a fascinating area.